The corona virus or, covid-19 (as the scientists named it) first appeared in the Wuhan province of China in December of 2019. As it was new and so no cure was available at that time (and also till date), the Chinese government quarantined the diseased people and locked down the healthy ones with the sole aim of containment of the disease. But in one way or another, the disease spread and so, following the method of China, every country which was affected by the disease began to lockdown some provinces or, the whole country (depending on the severity of the disease in that country). In India too, after a temporary lockdown of a day, a continuous lockdown of twenty-one days was imposed on the whole country from the 25th.of March, 2020.
In Assam, the state government took drastic steps during the first week of phase 1 of the lockdown to contain the virus and treat the infected. All the government medical colleges and civil hospitals were converted to covid hospitals. A great number of PPE kits were imported along with hundreds of ventilators for the patients. ICUs were increased in every hospitals. Quarantine centres were set up in Dhubri and some other districts so that people coming into Assam could be quarantined so that they may not infect others ignorantly. This was perhaps the best work done by the state government. And the people of the state too responded in a well manner to the precautions issued by the government. The people confined themselves in their homes and also prayed for the quick effacement of this disease. The Doordarshan cunningly did a good work by re-telecasting previously hit religious serials like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. People became glued to their televisions watching these serials.
The implications of the lockdown were many. In the first place, no one had imagined that their lives would be so badly hit by the lockdown. Firstly, the people suffered financially. Save for the salaried class, the pensioners, the doctors and the rich people, everybody faced minimum to severe type of financial difficulties. True, the prime minister (P.M) of the country had requested all the organizations and institutions to fully pay-off the salaries of their employees. But for the small scale industry owners, small transporters, small contractors etc.it was easier said than done. As a result almost all the people all over the country suffered from the problem of incomelessness arising out of worklessness. Daily wage earners, rickshaw and cart pullers, barbers, washer men, etc.were the hardest hit. Again, many businesses in the unorganized sector like hotels and restaurants, shops and malls, shopping complexes, transportation, vendoring, life insurance agents and also the insurance companies suffered greatly as a result of the lockdown. As these businesses came to a standstill, the people engaged in these businesses became incomeless. This in turn affected the landlords and shop leasers as their tenants (excepting the salaried and the pensioners) could not pay their rents. This saw mass Exodus of people from most of the industrial areas of the country to their original homes. As trade and business came to a standstill, the fruits and vegetable growers also suffered greatly. Fruits became rotten in the fields after ripening as there was no market to buy the fruits. As there were no customers for the fruits and vegetables, the middlemen who lived by supplying these things to the market became incomeless. Along with the call to pay-off the salaries to their employees, the PM had also asked the citizens to help each other during this time of crisis in whatever way they can. So many organizations, NGOs and even departments like the railways conducted communal kitchens to feed the poor and the needy. Some organizations and people in their individual capacity donated cereals and other edible things to the poor. As a relief measure, the government of Assam issued free rice to all the card holders under the government subsidized scheme. But as this was confined to only the card holders, a majority were left out. Again, during the first phase of lockdown, free Rice, flour, pulses and edible oils were distributed to the poor in this part of the country. But as it was not announced prior to their distribution, so most of the people were left uninformed about such free-disbursals. Those who came to know of it paraded all the members of their families observing social distancing (which was the norm during those distributions) so that they could possess as much as they can of such freebies. The result was that a majority of the people were left out while some got more than their share of such freebies. In the same way, although the government had distributed one free gas cylinder per month to people holding ujjwala scheme cards, most of the people were deprived of these free cylinders also as these cards weren’t received by most people.
The government was also hit hard by the lockdown. Its revenue dwindled sharply. Departments, corporations, private industries, businessmen and filmstars all contributed in their fullest extent to the relief fund of the PM. In our state, the government increased the price of petrol and diesel but it was of no satisfactory use as buyers of such fuel were very low due to the lockdown.
Some people were apprehensive of the government’s efforts to quarantine the patients and thus save hundreds from being infected. In many parts of India, when medical personnel conducted a house-to-house search for such people, the patients, their family members and most of the people of their neighborhood came out to attack these medical personnels and, also pelted stones at them. Again, in many towns and cities, vegetable markets opened up without paying any heed to the necessity of social distancing (S.D). As these markets opened up, the buyers also showed an ignorance about this method (S.D) of preventing the spread of the disease. As a result, in those areas, the disease flared up within two to three weeks time.
However, the greatest gloom this lockdown brought to the people of Assam was their inability to celebrate the Rangali Bihu which is also the Assamese new year and co-incidentally fell on the last day of the lockdown, phase-1. Even then, the people kept alive a ray of hope thinking that phase 1 of the lockdown would end on the fourteenth of April. But it didn’t materialize and phase 2 of the lockdown commenced from the 15th. of april to 3rd. of may. So the people were left out of their usual festive singing sprees as well as clothing themselves in new clothes, offering prayers in naamghars (communal prayer halls), playing egg-breaking games, etc. This was compensated by themselves by sending bihu greetings to their relatives and acquainted over social media platforms and through SMSes.
Again, it was seen all over the world people making videos of themselves making merry by engaging themselves in various activities. Celebrities from across India were seen doing yogic asanas, exercises or even having fun-games just to pass the time. From some countries people uploaded videos of singing and dancing. Small children recited poems mostly related to the corona virus. On the 5th.of April the PM summoned the people to light up a lamp at 9pm for nine minutes to show solidarity and to strengthen our determination in our fight against this disease. This was also well reciprocated by everyone in our locality.
This lockdown removed from the minds of the people the (mis) conception that they cannot remain indoors for long. The first week was troublesome but after ten days, the people became accustomed to their homes. Those who liked to flaunt their four wheeled vehicles or, those who had become habituated in using a motorized vehicle every time they come out of their houses, were indoctrinated the bitter but natural truth that life could be carried-on without flaunting vehicles or, that while going out on errands or, for special cases, a bicycle could also transport humans and things easily. So life during the first and second phases of the lockdown were passed in this way by the people of this part of the world.
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