Set up soup kitchensWith yet another lockdown, we are back to square one. Are we better prepared this time?
In a bid to control the spread of Covid-19, authorities have imposed prohibitory orders in the Kathmandu Valley effective from Thursday morning. Banke district administration has already imposed such orders beginning Monday midnight, and other local administrative units are expected to follow suit. Over a year after the country went into a nationwide lockdown, we are more or less back to square one. So the question that presents itself before us is: Are we better prepared this time?
It was a sorry story of missed opportunities and indifference on the part of authorities when a nationwide lockdown was imposed in March 2020. Citizens belonging to the lowest strata of society had to depend on the benevolence of others to ensure two square meals a day. With the new prohibitory orders, they are going to lose their means of earning yet again. The unreliability of authorities and institutions as benefactors of the citizens who need state support in times of crisis is well documented. The question is whether they have now prepared their institutions to shoulder the responsibility of supporting the people who need helping hands when they lose access to their means of livelihood.
Lest it be forgotten, thousands of hungry citizens congregated in Tundikhel to receive free meals each day even as Kathmandu Metropolitan City ordered charitable organisations distributing the food to go away because they had exposed the lethargy of the city authorities. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided had the authorities not forgotten their responsibilities. But mistakes do happen, especially in a country like ours that relies more on fatalism than on proactive approaches to solve problems. But there is a real danger of the same mistakes being repeated this time too, and that is inexcusable.
The tragedy unfolded not because we did not have the means to put food on their tables, but because we did not think it important to show any concern about their lives. For most of the past year, leaders from across party lines have cared only about their petty political gains, and let the political process go for a toss. Political manoeuvrings in the power corridors of the federal level swiftly seeped into the provincial and local levels, crippling all three levels of government at the same time. And so, in the midst of the crisis, governments of all levels failed to protect the inviolable rights of the people to be able to meet their food and medical care necessities without any difficulty. This must change.
With 3,442 new infections and 12 deaths in the past 24 hours, the Covid-19 situation is worsening every minute. Medical care professionals are already warning of a grave situation as hospital beds and oxygen cylinders become scarce. The topmost priority for the time being should be to find ways to contain new transmissions, although prohibitory orders have not proven to be a cure-all for the problem. Be that as it may, now that the orders are in place, authorities must ensure that underprivileged citizens meet their immediate livelihood needs, sick patients get easy access to top-notch healthcare facilities, and we flatten the Covid-19 transmission curve at the earliest.