As a recap; on April 22, the Assam government increased the value added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel to increase the revenue of the state government. The Indian medical association (IMA) called off their proposed strikes named “White alert” and, “Black Day” which were scheduled on April 22 and 23 respectively. These strikes were proposed as a protest against the misbehaviour and bullying done to the doctors and other medical personnel by the patients and laymen alike. This decision was taken after the central government approved a Bill making attacks against healthcare personnels a cognizable and non-bailable offence. On the 29th.of April, young Bollywood actor Irfan Khan died of a tumour in his Colon. Then a day after the death of Irfan Khan, veteran actor Rishi Kapoor breathed his last after fighting for two years against cancer. As during this time the second phase of the lockdown was in continuation so, only a few people took part in the funerals of these two actors. The deaths of these actors in quick succession rattled India in general and Bollywood in particular. It was during this time I.e on 3rd.May that the Indian Air Force (IAF) organised a great Thanksgiving effort all over the country when planes and helicopters of the IAF showered petals over hospitals and covid Care centres all over India as a Mark of respect and Thanksgiving to the doctors and other medical personnel engaged in the work of treating covid patients. This grand spectacle was observed all over the country from Dibrugarh in Assam to Kutch in Gujarat and, from Srinagar in J&K to Trivandrum in Kerala. On may 1 the Indian railways (IR) started the shramik express trains to ferry people who were stranded in places outside their hometowns during the start of the lockdown. Although the passengers thanked the IR for their effort yet critics were busy saying that had such actions been taken by the IR some three or four days previous to the lockdown then, India wouldn’t have witnessed the panicky Exodus of people from New Delhi to their homes in other states during the first week of the first lockdown. No wonder this intermingling of people without any heed for social distancing (SD) paved the way for the spread of the virus all over India. The government on April 30 decided to mark the districts of the country into Red, Green and Orange zones. Reds are those which have 200 or more positive cases. Orange are those which do not show any increase in cases during the last two weeks while green are those which have no positive during the last 21 days. The second phase of lockdown ended on the 3rd.of May with a spectacular display of petal showering by the IAF as narrated earlier. As the number of patients in this part of India was greatly lower than the other States, the people of this part of the country were anticipating a total lifting-off of the lockdown. But they were in for a shock when the government announced a continuous lockdown of fourteen more days from May 4. This was done because although the number of patients in India at that time were lower than the other countries, the graph of infected patients had been showing a steadier rise. This was because in spite of strict government declaration, vegetable sellers in many states began to openly and in close units continued selling vegetables and the buyers thronged the markets to buy them without resorting to SD. The dismay of the people were greater as during this period two great religious festivals namely the Birthday of Gautama Buddha and Id Ul Fitre coincided during this time.
Among the departments of the government, after the medical and the police, the IR did a great job by helping the people return to their homes from other places. The introduction of shramik trains from May 1 have already been discussed. From May 12 the IR started 15 pairs of special trains starting from New Delhi to various parts of the country. Assam and Tripura also got such a train each. For safety of the passengers, the IR saw to it that the tickets could be booked only through the IRCTC website.
It was during this period that Banks and Insurance offices began to open up. But keeping in view the necessity of SD, the offices functioned with only half of the staffs each day. And so that SD was also maintained by the public, they were allowed to enter the offices one, two or three at a time and only after cleansing their hands with sanitizers issued by the organizations and, their body temperatures checked. Both the central government (CG) and the state governments (SG) during this stage gave impetus to make online payments for the various payments of the public.
As the exchequers of the governments hit a low ebb so the government decided to open the liquour shops of the country again. In the red zone areas only stand-alone wine shops were allowed to be opened. But in the other zones, the wine shops were allowed to open but with due importance to SD. So a never before spectacle could be seen in front of almost all the wine shops of the country when the addicted made serpentine queues in front of the wine shops to buy wine, without paying any heed to the necessity of SD. There were more hilarious incidents related to liquor in the country during this period. Definitely, panic buyings prior to the lockdowns were seen all over the country and complaints of foodlessness were also heard during the return of the workers from Delhi. But to embarrass all these, in many parts of the country people looted wine shops dry to satiate their urge for liquor. This shows how much degraded the people of our country has become.
The government in order to help the farmers increased the minimum support price (MSP) of fourteen kharif crops by more than 50p.c. but farmers were at a loss when rains played havoc on their ripened or collected rabi crops. At this time, swarms of locusts from Pakistan invaded the agricultural fields from April and spread even upto Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
India during this period was visited by two cyclones which of course didn’t do any good but like adding insult to injury increased the difficulties of the people already hit by the virus. On May 20 cyclone Amphan made landfall in Calcutta and immediately started its destructive work all over the coastal areas of West Bengal overflowing and inundating the places, uprooting trees, breaking houses and killing and injuring people. This same cyclone had also hit the coastal areas of Odisha but other than breaking houses and trees and inundating the residential areas and cultivation fields, its impact on human lives were little, in fact much less than what it inflicted in West Bengal. This is because, critics say that, the Naveen Patnaik government had built large scale life saving shelters to save the lives of his people over time but such measures had not been taken in West Bengal.
The domestic passenger flights were renewed on May 25, exactly sixty days after the first lockdown was effected. However, the number of flights were only one third of those made during the pre-covid days. 55 flights were scheduled for Assam during those days. The state government expressed its concern to quarantine the incoming people for fourteen days and so alerted the people residing outside to return by June 10 through such flights. Among the States West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh extended the flight ban during this time while it was Assam and Karnataka which laid out mandatory quarantine for flight arrivals for two weeks. Of course there was chaos, confusion and disorder in all the terminuses and also the flight operators as it was said that the Central government had given them only five days to prepare for this opening. However, international flights were cancelled till July 31.
After the cyclone Amphan left the country, there followed heavy rains in Assam and other NE States. This caused a great flood in five districts of the state. In Arunachal pradesh there were landslides which killed some people.
The Assam government during this period made masks mandatory for all people coming out of their houses. Along with the central government organization, the state government opened its various offices. Vegetable markets, fish and poultry were closed during this period. Vendors sold vegetables in houses and also on the footpaths. The state government also increased the VAT on petrol and diesel to earn some revenue. It imposed a curfew from 6p.m to 6a.m which got a little relaxed during the period of first unlocking. Private medical clinics, doctor chambers, dental clinics and laboratories were opened but had to strictly close at 5p.m. All pharmacies, standalone shops and dealers, groceries and book shops were fully opened while shops of other types were opened on alternate days as adjusted by the district administration of each districts. The state government also stopped opening of the weekly haats. Private buses and city buses were opened but with occupancy of only 50p.c seat capacity. Needless to say this only increased the fares. The buses were forbidden in the Red zones but only to pass through. Saloons and beauty parlours were totally closed. Taxis were allowed but with one driver and only two passengers. Food outlets, restaurants and tea stalls were permitted to open but only on take away basis. As the third lockdown ended and the fourth started some states announced that people from other states return to their home states. The Assam government had transferred rs.2000 into the accounts of each person stranded outside to enable them to return home. After the start of 15 pairs of trains on 12 May some 30,000 people stranded in Bangalore, mumbai and new Delhi returned to Assam. Pollution certificates and continuation of license or taxes in commercial vehicles were stopped in the state till may 31.
Unlocking or unlockdown in India was programmed in a three phased manner, the first phase being started on June 1 while the second on July 1. Schools, colleges and such other institutions were scheduled to open during the second phase but was reshelved seeing the intensity of the situation. During the first unlockdown, curfew in Assam along with the rest of India was relaxed from 9p.m to 5a.m. but after a spurt in the cases, it was reclamped from 6pm.to 6am. From June 8 shopping malls, hotels and restaurants were opened and this brought a glimmer in the faces of such Establishments. But for the Nation it was like a back-kick as in the first month of unlocking 6000 more deaths occured all over the country thanks to the spread of the disease. From June 1 the IR decided to run 100 pairs of trains in different parts of the country. The highlight of this service was that the tickets will not be issued in any stations through the normal or tatkal mode but only through the website of IRCTC. There were no unreserved tickets, the reservation should be before 30 days of the journey, no tickets will be issued on board any train and, masking and screening of passengers compulsory. All traffic between the states were opened but no traffic of any type was allowed in the containment zones. On June 1 the central government announced a relief package of rs.20,000 crore or 10p.c of the country’s GDP to the industries and enterprises under the MSME sector which were badly hit during the more than two months of lockdown. In the first week of the month cyclone Nisarga made landfall in an area some 60km.south of Mumbai and caused devastating damage to the city and inundating the city and causing artificial floods. On June 2 landslides occurred in various places in Assam which killed 20 people.
The losses caused by these lockdowns due to the pandemic were many. Almost all the businessmen and the small enterprises and industries suffered. The skilled workers and the barbers, Masons, carpenters, the cooks etc. all suffered. So also suffered the vehicle owners and staffs of all types of vehicles. For some who were not financially secured, this entailed much hardships. As the unlocking started, the people began to gather hopes again. But as the disease is spreading and taking into its clutches also doctors, so the people are seeing that the earlier good times will never return. The hardest hit among the big businesses is the life insurance industry which saw a great decline of new business during this period. The general insurers cleverly brought out a covid-health policy which will be greatly beneficial for the patients. As the days roll on and the disease only spreading, the people are only becoming apprehensive of the future. As the flood situation in the state worsens, the people are fearful of an imminent foodgrain scarcity in the next year due to disruption of agricultural productions this year. Again, the worsening flood situation brought people together in shelters which has only helped in the spread of the disease. And with the World Health Organization (WHO) expressing concern that a vaccine against covid is impossible in the year 2020, the apprehensions of the people are only increasing.
* dates of various incidents and happenings have been taken from the i-net.
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