Politicians from across spectrum must practice what they preach on fight against Covid

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
As a bad year-from the perspective of our well being what with Covid second wave that ravaged the country–came to a close on December 31 and we stepped into the New Year, all we can do is to pray that 2022 promises to be a better, safer and healthier one. But for that, we as a Nation ought to be behaving sensibly, taking all due precautions and respect and fear the virus and its potency to create all round harm.
Unfortunately, evidence on the ground is to the contrary–what with the election season kicking off in right earnest and mega rallies being the order of the day making one wonder if people in general have dismissed the new mutant, Omicron as harmless. Pictures coming out from crowded markets, festivals and election rallies are scary, especially given the fact that the new variant is said to be many times more contagious and spread more rapidly as compared to the earlier variants of the Coronavirus.
After a drastic fall in Covid cases, India has once again seen a sudden spurt in the cases with 16,764 fresh COVID-19 cases and 220 more fatalities due to the viral disease. Of these 1,270 patients are infected with the Omicron variant.
Union Health Ministry has expressed serious concern over the sudden rise of cases in several cities, forcing a series of precautionary steps–restrictions on crowd collection at market places, partial shutting down of theatres, schools and educational institutions, nigh curfews and the like. But what has been surprising is that election related work carries on without any hinderances, something that many people have begun commenting on.
Fortunately, so far, Omicron has not yet been found to be as devastating and life-threatening but the rapidly multiplying cases across the Nation has become the new cause for worry into the New Year.
Already, the business, trade and corporate sector has begun to worry over the possible outcome of a feared third wave, expected to hit the country sometime in February end and March by some experts. Can India be able to afford another lockdown, if it happens, worry many as the country’s economy began signs of revival of the two Covid waves battered it down.
Even the jobs scenario began to offer a little cheer, as few sectors like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, IT and technology services began hiring so aggressively that it has now become war for talent in the employment marketplace.
Corporate India has  drawn up plans to open up offices from January, but the arrival of Omicron variant that has created havoc in Europe and the USA is making them a trifle nervous. Few companies have already declared that they would take a decision on opening up of office later and allowed their workers to continue to work remotely as they had been doing for the past one and half years or so.
It is in this context the role and actions of political parties, cutting across the political spectrum, that is coming under scrutiny with people wondering if Omicron virus was selective only to impact the activities of the common man and the petty trader and not the political entities and the huge crowds that congregate at election-related rallies. And even the logic of the night curfew is something that many are finding difficult to understand.
Clearly, the political parties ought to behave a bit more responsibly, as countless people follow them and do their bidding out of their own choice. Which is why, it is more important for the popular political entities to show restrain, follow all Covid protocols strictly–masking up, maintaining safe distance and sanitizing as advised by the medical fraternity so that fight against the Covid is effective.
Why one is focusing on the political parties is that over the past couple of days, all senior political parties belonging to different political parties are travelling to poll bound States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and participating in electioneering where clearly Covid appropriate behaviour and protocols were visibly being violated. The Election Commission, that is in charge of all activities relating to elections, has on the issue of Omicron said that all political parties wanted elections on schedule and would not brook any postponement.
But what the election commission can surely do is issue guidelines, in consultation with the other concerned Government departments–health, administration and law and order–to ensure all political parties and their representatives follow Covid protocols strictly so as to minimise the risk of spread of the new variant of the virus. Already, it is suspected that community transmission has started in Delhi, if the sudden spurt in the Omicron cases in Delhi is any indication.
But there is another school of thought that gives us optimism that we are nearing the end of the tunnel as far as the pandemic is concerned. According to a study from South Africa, the Omicron variant would help its victims to build antibodies that can save them from the more deadly Delta variant. If this is true, then there is a possibility that faster spreading Omicron may well be the answer to the peoples’ prayers.
But then, it is all speculation and conjecture at the moment as the real threat is fast approaching the mankind in India. There should and must not be any let up in our preparations, as individuals as a society and as a Nation.
The World Health Organisation has declared that Delta and Omicron are driving up cases to record numbers across the globe, which in turn was leading to steep increase in hospitalisation and deaths. According to the WHO, it was highly concerned that the more transmissible Omicron, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a Tsunami of cases.
Now this is a warning that ought to be taken seriously.
Yes, the Central Government has stepped in and has asked the States to impose curbs so as to deal with the new threat effectively. A slew of measures have been taken and are being taken, and as a first strict regulations are in place to prevent crowding.
But there are only so much the administration and police can do without the active cooperation of the people. And it is in their own self interest and preservation that the citizens should see reason and behave sensibly, and stay safe to live another day. Celebrations, parties and crowded events can be postponed for a later, safer day.
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer, and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected] and Twitter handle @kvlakshman