Ostriches supposedly bury their heads in the sand when they are threatened or frightened. It is universally agreed that this is the stupidest of moves. My 10-year-old, who loves animals, birds, and National Geographic, busted this myth. She told me that it is an optical illusion because these large birds have disproportionately tiny heads and when they are checking on their eggs, which they have laid by digging deep holes in the dirt and building their nests, it looks like they have their heads buried in the sand. Humans on the other hand have a pronounced tendency to stick their heads up their backsides in the middle of a crisis or even otherwise, and that I am afraid is no myth.
For instance, take the lockdown 4.0 currently in progress. There are thousands of rules about what the citizens can or cannot do, which are disseminated on news channels and via WhatsApp forwards. Thousands of Covid-related circulars have been issued by the Central and state governments to clarify or counter instructions given in circulars circulated earlier and we can expect thousands more to ‘clarify’ the clarifications. It is a vicious circle and the end result is chaos. The only thing that is crystal clear is that none of the people who have been entrusted with the fate of the nation have a clue about what ought to be done.
Sample this. Liquor shops were opened across the length and breadth of the country thanks to government orders. According to some statistics I dredged up from the internet, more people die every hour from alcohol-related issues than coronavirus at its most contagious. And yet, the government in its infinite wisdom decides that is imperative that the good citizens be allowed to drink themselves to death and spread the damn virus even as the curve stubbornly refuses to flatten. Given the big bucks liquor sales rake in for the government it is easy to see why such a dubious decision was made even as unemployment rates soar and suicide cases have spiked over people’s inability to make ends meet.
Then there is the question of the migrant labourers. The government has opened train services to help them reach their homes, but apparently they have to cough up dough they do not have, to avail themselves of these services. According to the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, on cessation of employment, the employer must pay the employee’s fare for their journey home. Why is this law being ignored? Also, has any thought at all been put into the fact that this exodus from the red urban zones to the green rural areas heightens the risk of contagion? Also, how will businesses that have been reopened find labourers when they have no idea about how or if the migrant workers will make it back to their jobs?
Then there is the question of population explosion. A top UN body has declared that India is projected to record 20 million births between March and December 2020. It is a pity that contraceptives are not counted as a must-have and no steps are being taken to make them available free of cost for the poor and needy. There seems to be little preparation or planning for the cataclysmic aftermath of the coronavirus, and if we don’t remove our heads from where they are currently lodged, they will roll.