A People-driven Effort

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THE social media video of Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qasmi urging people to offer nimaz at home should be welcomed by all. The role of religious leaders in ensuring Covid-appropriate behaviour among the people amid the ongoing runaway surge of the pandemic cannot be over-emphasised. They have a large following and people look up to them for guidance and take them seriously. So, it was sensible of Mufti Qasmi to come out with a video message to people to not attend mosques. More religious leaders in the Valley need to follow the example of Mufti Qasmi and urge Muslims to observe Covid-19 protocol. Not only Muslims, Hindu, Sikh and Christian leaders need to the same. This will go a long way to jolt the community into engaging in a responsible behaviour in public to ensure we also defeat the virulent second wave.

And why only religious leaders, the society, as a whole, needs to contribute. The administration should seek the support of the civil society to create awareness and urge observance of Covid-19 protocol. Let mohalla be a unit for this initiative where a mosque committee, elders or a group of youth can take the lead in promoting a Covid appropriate conduct.

The administration can certainly play a role in encouraging this community effort. This is because, a long term lockdown as a measure to control the contagion is now ruled out. The devastation that lockdown wrought on the economy last year makes its repetition unthinkable. The administration has now imposed weekend curfew to at least restrict widespread social contact for two days. This will make some redeeming difference. For the rest of the days, the administration, however, needs to check its instinct to lock things down.

So what should the government be doing instead? Many things other than an easy recourse to a curfew. For one, there’s an urgent need to enforce the safety precautions in order to contain the pandemic. And to start with, there has to be an aggressive campaign to enforce the use of masks. More alarmingly, the masks are still absent from the faces of most of the people walking on the streets or those of the passengers using public transport. And none of these violators is taken to task.

The administration needs to urgently work on two fronts: one, run an earnest awareness campaign alerting people to the deadliness of coronavirus and the urgency of observing safety precautions. Second, take strict action against the people who go out without masks or participate in large gatherings. These are the only pragmatic and hopefully helpful tools to tackle the contagion. That too, with least damage to the economy.

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