Rajat Sharma

Ordinance to punish offenders who attack health workers is a timely and welcome step

akb0210On Wednesday evening , in my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ I showed visuals from inside the intensive care unit of a New York hospital where doctors in protective gear were furiously trying to save the life of a Coronavirus patient. More than 900 people have died in the locality, Westchester, and doctors in Saint Joseph’s Medical Center are trying hard to cope with the pandemic. Doctors with not enough masks and protective gear are struggling. The doctor on duty said I announce 6 death in my shift every day. This is the story of almost all American hospitals.

Nearly 8.5 lakh people in the US are down with the virus, and the death toll is inching towards 48,000 mark. New York has become the epicentre where nearly 20,000 people have died so far. The purpose of our showing these visuals was to tell viewers in India the dangers one can face if lockdown and social distancing norms are defied.

People died in thousands in the US, Italy, Spain and UK, because these countries delayed enforcing lockdown. The pandemic virus swept through major cities and devoured people in thousands. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a timely decision and enforced lockdown that is still continuing. This has largely helped in stemming the spread of the virus.

Yet there are still people in India who view the lockdown as unnecessary and think the virus will spare them even if they come out in the open and mix with crowds. In the process, they pass on the virus to others.

There was this case in Nagpur, where a 68-year-old man Abdul Latif, a patient of tuberculosis, died of Coronavirus, but in the process, he passed on the virus to 54 members of his extended family. He had four daughters and a son, and there were 22 members in his family, out of which 18 were later found positive. Abdul Latif had two brothers and a sister. In all there were 54 members in the three families, out of which more than 20 were found positive.

Attacks on police and health workers continue. In Aligarh, on Wednesday, crowds pelted stones at policemen who had come to close down shops after the relaxation time for shopping was over. Eight persons were later arrested. In Baliga Nagar located in Mumbai’s Dharavi slums, several Tablighi Jamaat supporters beat up a man because had informed police about the presence of Jamaat workers.

Lockdown and social distancing norms are still being violated. I showed visuals of crowds at Liluah Bazaar in Howrah, West Bengal, in Mulund, Mumbai and a fish market in Karnataka’s Mysuru district.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, providing for imprisonment up to seven years, if anybody attacks a medical team and causes serious injuries to health workers. The ordinance has been brought to provide security to the health workers who are being attacked when they visit virus-infested localities. The culprits will have to pay double the market price of ambulances, if these are damaged.

The ordinance has been welcomed as timely by all sections of people. We should also have words of appreciation for our police personnel who are toiling day and night to enforce lockdown and to provide security to health workers in hospitals and quarantine centers.

I have a special word of praise for Delhi Police which distributed 59 lakh food packets and 212 tonnes of dry rations among the poor people. Visuals of policemen and women preparing rotis and meals at community kitchens should fill our heart with pride.

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