From Mumbai, India – Rajan Welukar

Former Vice Chancellor, University of Mumbai, YCM Open University and G H Raisoni University

30 March. Factually Speaking… Today I met the Health Minister of Government of Maharashtra to discuss the status of corona infection, preparedness and the challenges to address the issues in the state of Maharashtra. Had a meaningful discussion. I must putforth my appreciation on behalf of the citizens of the state towards him and his entire team who are seriously with sensitivity working to arrest the growth of corona virus. Today almost 27 days are over after the first case entered Pune city in Maharashtra. Till today the multiplying factor has not crossed 1.13 which is additive. I asked the Minister: what measures you have taken since the first case arrived in Maharashtra? His humble answer was that we patiently took stepwise decision from one week after the first case entered Maharashtra. Off course majority of the people supported our decisions. The decisions include: to quarantine those who were potential infected came from outside the country, making government hospitals ready to deal with such cases, training to health workers, closing down the malls, requested corporates to allow their employees to work from home, closing down schools, colleges and universities, postponing examinations, initially calling only fifty percent of the government employees to the office, later only five percent were called for work, reducing public transport, lockdown till 31st March etc. Chief Minister, Health Minister, Home Minister and other concern Ministers of the state were doing their bit and also coming on the television to make appeal to the people. All these decisions within first 16 to 17 days. On 19th March the Prime Minister appered on television to address the citizens to make an appeal to nation to follow one day Janata(People’s) curfew on 22nd March. It was successful except few incidences. But as the number of infected cases were increasing and few people were not understanding he had to come again and announce total lockdown for 21 days in the entire country. There are few lapses but unexpectedly the State and central governments are working with full efforts. Only people will have to have patience and they need to co-operate with the government for their own sake. The country otherwise have many challenges. Might be because of the stepwise interventions and majority of the people’s support the number of infected people till today (fingers crossed) has shown linear increase. There may be other reason for these reduced number is, less number of people who came forward or the government could trace them for infection test. I may be wrong rather I should be wrong in making this statement. In addition to this Civil societies and corporates are supporting the Government financially and in other ways. In last 27 days India has not crossed 1,250 whereas some countries cross more than 20,000 in the same period. Our situation is more challenging because there are around 25% illiterates and poor people. The Government shall take care of their basic needs during this period. Government is trying their level best.

I can’t end without appreciating the doctor’s, health workers’, police personnel all human resources in essential services, helping corporates, NGO’sO and off course all law abiding patient people seating at home in this lockdown. I pray God to educate those who are, may be out of fear or out of innocence or out of arrogance or out of over confidence not following the protocol/ instructions of the government, at the earliest.

Jay Jagat!

30 March. Home … My daughter, Janavi Welukar, who has done her LLB, Masters in Public Policy and Masters in Development Management also got exited to write her reflection as below:

Marriage in India is considered to be a beautiful custom uniting not just two individuals but two families. I recently got married and walked into a new family. We have a traditional Indian joint family. Woah !!! I know what you’re thinking (how do you manage?). But you will know as the story unfolds. Me being a very unconventional individual been brought up unconventionally doing anything traditional was a milky way away for me. But somethings are pleasantly destined, I guess. I am an only child so as you may understand adjusting with a new family is a tough cookie. Everyone uses everyone’s everything. From your books to your bed and even your bathroom is a tragedy of commons. When your super new, all small things seem to bebig. Like from your food habit’s to sleep timing’s are dictated mostly by the timetable the family has been following for the same for the past 30 years preceding your entry. You seem like a lost owl in the family of penguin’s. Trying to /nd your own. Hence the first thing I thought aboutwriting in my quarantine diary was about family.

We are a family of six. My mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, his wife, their 8 year old daughter, my husband and me. All three women in my house including me are working women hence our lives until now were dictated being away from home for a certain amount of time like all others in the family. And all of us are really distinct personalities who like to do really diferent things to pass our time. I really consider myself to be lucky to have entered such a generous family who have been inclusive in their behavior towards me. Be it my choices in the arrangement of the furniture or my choice of food, they make it a point to at least try it once. So when began the epic tale of the quarantine we charted out the food menu first (yes, we are a family of foodies). And everyone took turns to cook the dish they suggested over days.

After day one we realized the importance of house help as they could not make it to do the daily chores. So our eight year old sprung up and said “I will mop the floor” and gave birth to the distribution of work equally amongst all the family members. Day 3, food coma was taking over and lethargy was slowly but steadily creeping in. And came to the rescue my brother-in-law, a national level basketball player who drove us all to the gym on the upper floor and gave us an individual exercise chart. While my mother-in-law watered the plants whilst explain us distinct features and life cycles of each of them. Yes, of course my husband played the DJ to motivate us and after exhaustion came in the surprise. My eight year old niece said let’s play cricket because she had nothing else to do apart from being sous chef to all. And so giving in to her wishes we all played and did rather well. Since we had been doing so much through the days we end the day with of course a big bowl of Dessert.

This reason I wrote this rather long story is to say how simple and really small things that aren’t worth much gave me so much joy. How easily it eased me into this new household made me feel like a part of it. It made me realize a single child the importance of community. Yes its true, it does take a village to grow a child but it also takes a village to and the deep seeded happiness within you. To glow in nothingness without material and brands and fancy nothings that have become everything for us in this world of fast. We’ve reached mars faster than our own heart. This compulsory pause has helped me certainly come close to myself and what drives me. Hope it does the same to all.

I thought only Indian’s are unprepared and casual

28 March. Since the laat two days I have mostly been watching television, going through whatsapp posts and reading the available literature on Covid 19. While reflecting on the number of infected cases, active cases, recovered cases and number of deaths all over the world, especially in the developed countries like USA, Italy, Spain, UK and others, I realised that these countries initially took corona virus rather casually. Only later did they take it seriously. But by that time the virus had already shown its true colours and the infection increased rapidly; in some cases exponentially. I think we all were in a state of mind known as ‘knowledge illusion’ i.e. we know everything. However, in one go the virus has brought all of us on ground; in fact, literally brought us to our knees!  Now, in order to save mankind and for the sake of humanity, we must change our approach towards the world in which we are living. We need to control the speed with which we are approaching ‘growth’ without realising ‘development’. This is a big lesson to all of us. It is telling us, “now or never”! The Corona virus has truly acted as an eye-opener regarding the preparedness of our health systems. The mounting anger and the frustration of the people is visible in various news paper reports and several articles in magazines and journals. Prior to the Covid 19 outbreak, various governments the world over were taking pride in their health systems – not only health care, but also disaster mitigation. Now people are asking questions to these very governments: where are the systems?This is the time to wake up! 

25 March. Government sealed the borders But couldn’t seal the minds

On March 22, the majority of the people followed the curfew as appealed to by the PM. Few who did not made a negative effect on the innocent majority law abiding people. As soon as the curfew was over, the very next day, maybe because of the confidence (over confidence) on their immunity or ignorance or they might have felt that since the PM has told them to follow one day curfew, it is sufficient to break the chain of coronavirus.

Further thinking that now it’s over, they came out of their in large numbers for going to their work places as if now everything is normal. The result of this was lot of rush on the roads of big cities and markets. The third day also they made a rush in the vegetable market without following the instructions of the doctors and the government in spite of the curfew was still on. Even when the Government announced that essential commodity market will remain open. Might be out of fear that if government announces closer tomorrow then what?

Here we could have visualized the situation earlier and planned to take appropriate measures. I think social intelligence could have helped the implementing agencies. It can be made compulsory to teach social intelligence to all the students. It is surprising that even after the number of deaths in developed countries like China, Italy, Spain, USA, UK etc due to the infection of corona virus some over confident people are not understanding the scale with which it can destroy the nation economically and with human resources.

People think that they are independent, have democracy, freedom to think act according their own wish even under the present context. No doubt that the Government, the doctors and others involved in the rescue operations are doing a wonderful job but I am tempted to say rhetorically that the Government could sealed the borders of the villages, cities and states as a precautionary measures but unfortunately they couldn’t seal the mind of the people. Everybody shall be made aware of the checklist Dr Atul Gawande is talking about in his book “Checklist Manifesto”.

Finally after keenly observing I could not find a very effective but pointed communication about the chain effect of virus spread from the common man’s perspective. Government, media, celebrities and others are doing it but they can make it more effective with the help of Creative Media, advertiser’s, marketing and visualising experts so that people can understand. By understanding the chain effect, they will realise the scale. This will help arrest the growth of infections.

Of course, majority have shown the maturity but some have proved to be deaf and dumb. God bless all including them.

23 March. Will a one day curfew help India?

As number of cases of corona-virus infection have been detected and they are increasing every day. The government is taking it quite seriously. It has gone into the mode of taking emergent actions. They are trying to arrest the growth of infection. Two days ago, the Hon’ble Prime Minister requested the people to remain at home on Sunday 22nd March from 0600 hrs to 2100 hrs to which he termed as Janata (people’s) curfew. This kind of appeal was made by the then PM to the nation some 55-60 years ago. Secondly the PM also requested people to come out at 1700hrs in their gallery and clap or make a sound using metal utensils or a bell for 5 minutes to express gratitude and appreciate the great contribution of the Doctors, Nurses and other Emergency Services Staff. People overwhelmingly participated in the curfew. They actually locked down themselves in their homes. That was indeed a grand success. All roads were empty, shops, hotels were closed. Even temples, churches, mosques were closed for people except for the priest etc. who take care of these places. People did come out in the galleries with their families and clapped, made sounds. This also included the celebrities and politicians.

However, some enthusiasts made 5pm an event. They came out of their homes in groups. These included children and old people as well. They were standing without maintaining social distance. While recognising and appreciating doctors and other servicepersons, they forgot the instructions/advisories given by the doctors. I don’t know whether they really wanted to appreciate doctors or doing it to show to somebody that they also participated in the event. Is it not hypocrisy?

Moreover, one day curfew is not going to help us. If we really want to arrest the spread of corona-virus infection we need at least 14 days’ lockdown to break the cycle. Now the state governments have started taking more stringent measures by promulgating stringent laws and shutting down public transport. The positive part of this time of distress and pain is that the world is finally realising the relevance of Gandhi’s principle of self-discipline.

22 March. Are Children more responsive than…

The other day my domestic help came to the drawing room where I was watching an interview of the health Minister on the coronavirus. I asked her if she needed something? It was 9 p.m. in the evening. She said, “Sir, I will have to go as I have received a call from my daughter who is studying in senior KG. She is insisting that I immediately go to a doctor.”

On this I requested her to leave immediately. At the clinic, there was a big queue and they could meet the doctor around 12 in the night. Later when I asked her what was the issue. She told me that she had suffered a little cold recently. Her daughter knew this and when she had gone to the school in the morning, her teacher briefed the class on coronavirus. In her care & love for her mother the child asked her to go to the doctor for the check-up. She wanted to take all precautions for herself and her family.

In another news I heard of a very famous singer who had travelled from London to India recently. Avoiding the quarantine norm, she instead, threw a party to people after coming from London. Around 250 people attended the party including some politicians. Now the singer is tested positive but she had hidden the travel history from her guests. Similar cases of criminal negligence have taken place in Surat and Hydrabad, in India.

Actually, it is expected from adults that they obverse caution and also teach their kids about it. Here, it seems that children are more mature and caring!

May God save humanity!