The decision of the panchayats and municipalities across the State to impose lockdowns in their respective areas highlights the lack of confidence in the government's measures to contain transmission of the Coronavirus as much as it reflects fear. While Chief Minister Pramod Sawant decided not to extend the symbolic 3-day partial weekend closure beyond Sunday, the self-imposed lockdowns by panchayats across Goa is a massive thumbs down to the Covid plans of the government.
The fear is so overwhelming this time that legislators and local body representatives haven’t spared a thought for the legal sanctity of their decisions, a clause that stopped them in their tracks when faced with a similar situation in 2020. Lest we forget, in July 2020, the directorate of panchayats had issued a circular that only district collectors are empowered to impose a lockdown under the Disaster Management Act, and were told in no uncertain terms that powers do not vest with the village panchayats. Local bodies that were apprehensive over the spike in Covid cases were warned against imposing lockdown. That's not all. The BJP leadership, including Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, took strong objection to such moves and had instead advised people to go about their normal business with adequate safeguards and hygiene. Panchayats were forced to abort plans of self-imposed lockdown.
In less than a year, Goa faces a bigger crisis with the government machinery continuing to fall woefully short. There is an insecurity of life all around. The only encouraging aspect now is that people across sections, political hues and party affiliations have stepped up efforts to guard people's health, completely ignoring the government's diktat. A vast section of BJP legislators and local party leaders have proceeded against the government's decision and announced a shutdown. This is a clear indicator that people’s trust in the government in this Covid fight has hit rock bottom.
It's a pity that the government of the day has shown no remorse for the increasing count of people dying. There are 50-odd daily casualties daily, and there are many who continue to remain critical. While testing has been ramped up, people are gasping for oxygen. A 49-year-old lady died in the car outside the South Goa district hospital on Tuesday because she could not get oxygen, nor timely admission. This is a striking testimony to the crippled state of our healthcare infrastructure.
Picture that against a scenario where Mumbai's entertainment industry is shifting to Goa as a film-shooting destination with some among the 15 companies that have sought permissions getting a go-ahead. Lockdown doesn’t apply here. Picture another scenario where the leadership is scurrying from pillar to post in search of oxygen, much after it is done with all elections.
The Covid situation may be worsening elsewhere, but Goa had its fair share of luck. Why did the government lower its guard when the virus was on the wane early this year? Why were Covid hospitals and centres denotified? If there was some seriousness applied to the forewarning of an impending second wave, the State government should have been bracing up and fortifying infrastructure and oxygen supplies. What we are currently witnessing is a dreadful catastrophe.