A day after a video went viral showing a bus from Maharashtra entering Goa via the Patradevi border without any checks for Covid certificates, the government admitted the lapse and swung into action with an order to tighten protocol at check-posts. In a related development, another video went viral alleging money being exchanged to waive off checks at Patradevi.
Sadly, the systems at border check-posts are hugely compromised at a very crucial time. We have social activists and vigilantes monitoring borders and exposing these serious breaches, which otherwise would not have come in the foreground. Vigil at entry points is extremely important during this Covid phase when there are threats of virus intrusion from the neighbouring States. The question is why are there no inherent checks and balances at what is believed to be the last bastion of security? Why are border checks taken so casually?
Lessons from the past haven’t been taken seriously. We may recall the time when the second wave was in full spate and the State administration was refusing to put curbs at the border. It was the high court’s intervention that saved Goa from a catastrophic situation. It appears that authorities have forgotten the court observations far too soon. The court, in May this year, had slammed the government for not enforcing mandatory Covid-negative certificate at the border and held that an "unrestricted entry" is not fair on the Goan residents. It stated that wholesale waiver of restrictions in critical times is not justifiable and that government should have imposed restrictions in the public interest on its own.
However, while the government did its job of issuing an order on protocol, it has done a huge disservice by not monitoring the situation and allowing authorities to flout norms for monetary gains. By leaving scope for such vulnerabilities a compromised system and its failure stand exposed. How does the State administration entrust such a critical State issue to a few without any cross-checks? Are we Goans taken for an easy ride with a false claim that all is well at the borders? Do we need viral videos to set a wrong, right, every time it occurs?
The administration in a recent order has imposed curbs on visitors from Kerala. Students and employees are told to undergo a 5-day mandatory institutional quarantine and a negative RTPCR report is sought from anyone arriving from Kerala. Against the background of what’s happening at the border, how does one believe that these orders are implemented in letter and spirit? Or are we to believe that the more stringent the rules, the higher are the stakes at the border?
Thankfully, Goa has seen some respite from Covid in the past few months giving the government faint hopes of re-starting tourism. Our hospitals and healthcare workers have just started breathing easy after a gruelling 16 months of fighting Covid. Goa must consider itself lucky as against the crowding and flagrant breach of protocol that is witnessed day after day. We must consider ourselves lucky because led by the politicians themselves, rules have been flouted with impunity, including Section 144 and the farcical curfew.
A spike, even if it is a minor one, will send shivers because there is a looming third wave. We hope the administration not only ties the loose ends but also takes stringent action against those who stand compromised and risk the health of the people of Goa.