In a rare televised address to the people of the state, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advice to the nation in the local language, conveying the seriousness of the pandemic and urging citizens to stay at home. His speech on what essential services one could expect during the lockdown period was also laced with the warning of stern action against those who violated curfew orders or spread rumours.
The address was a necessity in light of many curfew offenders, including speeding bikers, on day one of the lockdown. Videos on police action and reaction have gone viral on social media. The cops have been experimenting with various mechanisms to drive home the message of staying indoors. In three arterial roads in Chennai, they have been folding their hands and pleading with motorists, while in some areas, they have been “spot-punishing” the violators, asking them to do sit-ups. But in a few places, they have reportedly wielded lathis, forcing people to retreat.
As per the curfew guidelines, the movement of essential services like milk, grocery, medical supplies and newspaper bundles have to be allowed. But unfortunately, in many places, the movement of vehicles, including those carrying essentials, was severely restricted. This has led to a major disruption in their distribution. A system like a GPS tracker on vans carrying such items could be installed to avert this confusion. It is certainly a tough task to enforce discipline. It can be argued that desperate times call for desperate measures.
It will be interesting to note that this phrase was said to have been coined by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician. In the original Latin text that was translated later as Aphorisms of Hippocrates, the physician has justified this desperate measures clause, saying, “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” The police action may seem like a leaf out of this medical bible. But we live in different times, and it is important for both the police force as well as people to act with more responsibility in this difficult situation.