• Sanchaali Chakravarty

Janta’s Perception of the Janta Curfew

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday evening expressed gratitude to the nation for the gratuitous clapping and ringing of bells at 5 pm during Janta curfew to acknowledge the medical fraternity which is engaged in fighting the coronavirus, endangering their safety. The prime minister added that the event also marked the beginning of India’s victory march in a long battle against the deadly virus. The Janta curfew was observed on Sunday for the twin purpose of enforcing social distancing and awareness of the population on the prime minister’s appeal made in an address to the nation a few days ago. India has registered over 391 cases of COVID-19 till Sunday with 6 confirmed deaths, the global toll, however, has crossed 267,000 infections and over 11,000 deaths. Janta curfew has so far been hugely successful across the country with reports of massive participation in the initiative coming from across the country as the streets bore a deserted look and places like markets, mosques, temples, railway and bus stations and other public recreational places remained empty. The real question is however whether or not this Janta curfew was successful in really encouraging the fight against the novel coronavirus that is quite steadily spreading in India. There was a lot of speculation when the prime minister announced a public address a few days back about what measures India and the Indian government was taking as a nation to fight the novel coronavirus. Although the address was received much warmly by most citizens, a huge population was disappointed with the lack of response by the government in terms of mitigating the risk attached to the spread of the virus. The Prime Minister urged the public to stay home as much as possible and to only go out of their homes when deemed necessary. This seems like a good way to avoid getting the virus, however, this grossly ignored the issues faced by the lower sections of the society. This whole choice of staying home exists only with the people who can afford to stay at home or work from home, that is, the people who mostly work in the organized working sector and have the option as well as the resources to stay at home and work from home. However, the real situation in India is much different. As per the International Labour Organisation, more than 80 percent of India’s population works in the unorganized sector. About 52.2 percent of people in rural areas are self-employed, mostly in the agricultural sector. The real question that arises here is that most of this population that often works on a daily wage basis, can this population afford to stay home and isolate themselves? As of now, no economic resource allocation has been made by the central government for these people. Isolation is necessary to break the spread of the virus but total isolation is impossible because of the economic issues faced by this section of the population. Talking further about economic problems and isolation, we also see the curious case of domestic labor or labor that works on a day to day basis in people’s homes. This section of the labor has been severely affected as most people have asked their domestic labor to not come home, leaving them without a livelihood in these distressing times. This has also affected the daily wage workers who work in various factories across the nation as production has shut down across all sectors. What disappointed people more was that the prime minister did not talk about what the government was doing to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, amid reports of major glitches between the testing guidelines stated by India. It had been pointed out before that the low numbers of COVID-19 in India was because India wasn’t testing enough people, as the guidelines released earlier by the government did not allow for people who had not traveled to a foreign nation for the last 14 days or been in proximity to someone who had done so, to get tested. The guidelines were changed only recently. Nevertheless, the Janta curfew was observed by citizens on the 22nd of March 2020 with much gusto. The news channels and social media were filled with pictures and videos of people who came out to their balconies and clapped. This was done to thank all the doctors, healthcare professionals, delivery boys, etc who continue to work in these harrowing times despite the risk to their lives, only so that everyone else stays safe. Although people participated in much fanfare, several tweets from doctors and healthcare professionals about the lack of resources in hospitals remained unnoticed. What the collective clapping did in fact, was that it acted as a motivator for the population. It acted as a reconciliatory factor and once again proved to everyone that all of us are in this together. It acted as a psychological boost to liven the spirits of everyone and helped bring a little positivity in times of distress. This worked as a means to show solidarity with everyone else. Although many cases of people going out in the public in large gatherings were reported from across the country, who went out in large processions to clasp and bang their utensils to carry this out, acting against the principle of self-isolation. Another interesting thing to be noticed is that this whole ordeal has given way too multiple memes and jokes on social media, providing the self-isolated population some much-needed entertainment. So we hope you keep yourself well entertained in these times of isolation and stay safe.