Dr Ishfaq Jamal
Jammu and Kashmir was the first region in India to suspend all classes in schools, colleges and universities on 11th March due to the Coronavirus scare. It was followed by a total lockdown barring few essential services to fight the nCovid-19. A right step at a right time as the region witnesses a spike in corona virus positive cases. Fear looms among people of J&K that if the situation goes out of control it would be impossible for authorities to deal with the situation looking at the health sector and the infrastructure we have in Jammu and Kashmir.
The way people responded to the lockdown is highly admirable. Most of the people realised need of the hour and all of sudden everyone started convincing each other the need and importance of this lockdown. Social media trends like #stayathome and #TalsaGharreyBehew became trends and this way most people were convinced that if we truly want to fight this pandemic staying home is the best way to do that.
So far governments response has been fairly good. Administration immediately started a holistic approach in dealing with the situation. Our medical staff and bureaucracy are at the forefront in dealing with the situation. Identifying persons who returned from outside India and J&K, screening, isolating them and in case of positive cases, contact tracing, a most hectic yet most important task, is being carried out rigorously and thanks to these steps situation seems under control so far.
The other important area where focus needs to be shifted is providing basic amenities of life to a population of 13 million. Yes we may argue that situation in Kashmir Valley is little different from rest of India. Here we do not have many complaints about hunger, migrant workers, disease spread in dense slums etc but we have our own specific problems to deal with. Very far flung areas and difficult terrain is a challenge for administration as providing necessary rations and other facilities in such inaccessible areas amid lockdown has to be ensured. We have some very serious economic woes of working class. Economy was shattered by government imposed political lockdown post August 2019. This was aggravated by the early snowfall and a harsh winter that caused a huge loss to horticulture sector. With the result our working class, laborers, and farmers are facing serious economic crunch.
Thus a more bigger challenge is reliable access to food, water, medicines and other emergency assistances. Amid restrictions on movement, delivery of essentials to people at doorsteps ,especially in rural areas should be ensured. Farming season has already begun in Kashmir and it is important to have a proper strategy in place allowing agricultural activities with minimum people to people contact. Now that the lockdown has been extended, financial woes of people will exacerbate. Immediate financial assistance to people especially BPL families should be provided. Already government possesses data of PM Kissan, MGNREGA and other social assistance schemes which will make it a bit easier to identify the beneficiaries at an earliest.
The onus thus lies on the government of India which now directly controls Jammu and Kashmir. That everyone around during the lockdown should be provided with basic minimum facilities. Groceries, food and vegetable supply and other important items should be ensured to reach each and every street so that we don’t find a rush of people in Mandi`s, towns and other markets. Only then the basic purpose of lockdown of keeping people indoors in order to stop the spread of coronavirus can be achieved.
Author can be reached at: Ishfaq jamal firstname.lastname@example.org
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