COVID19: Few Endanger Many

Ever since the “Janata curfew”, was announced by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on March 22, 2020 and then a 21-day lockdown from March 24, a peculiar phenomenon is visible across the country. Despite assurances by the authorities and the administration, access to local stores and affluence among many to buy stuff, a section of the middle class is behaving worse than the genuinely deprived and underprivileged souls.
I witnessed a rush to buy things that weren’t needed on the night of March 21, then on March 23 and then a day before the hotspots were sealed for three to four days.
On the first occasion I saw an interesting phenomenon that the so-called well educated crowding the grocery stores and jostling to out smart the other to pretty much buy whatever they could lay their hands on. Surprisingly, the grocery store owner had to put his foot down by asking everyone out make a line that adhered to social distancing, wear a mask and made a rule that no more than 4 people will enter the store at a time. But then those who entered first started piling up and wasting time and had to be told to hurry up so that the others could buy things too.
The purchase pattern also showed up some interesting facts. Basics such as rice, pulses, atta, oil and ghee were lying on the shelf, what had flown off it were junk items like maggi, other noodles, biscuits, bhujias, chips, cookies, cakes.
This pattern was repeated again within 48 hours when the 21-day lockdown was announced. This time people stuffed their bags with the basics. The grocery store owner kept telling the people he would remain open through the lockdown period, there was no need to panic, but no one listened and soon a large majority had to return empty handed.
Within two days of the lockdown every system was in place to provide for every daily needs. It included milkman coming to your society gate. A vegetable vendor started parking himself with fresh vegetables for five to eight hours daily. Grocery stores were functional and were sufficiently well stocked. They were lying empty for most of the time till the state government announced a list of areas that would be sealed for four days. Again there was pandemonium that wasn’t induced by a pandemic but unexplained panic.
It seemed like the end of the world scene, people clamouring for whatever they could lay their hands on. They disregarded the social distancing norms, most of them didn’t wear any mask and crowded the stores, vegetable vendor and some even brought their children with them.
It was thought that seventeen days into the lockdown would have drilled some sense into the people that they are one of the most fortunate ones who have so much around them to comfortably park themselves in their homes. But no! Disregarding their good fortune or taking it for granted they kept pushing their luck while jeopardising the others.
Thrice in a space of 17 days people indulged in panic buying despite proven availability of goods around them. For the first time it was the seller who was discouraging them not to buy or crowd him.
Panic buying was accompanied by insolent demands, “do you have pizza toppings? My child can’t have the normal lunch you know,” “Do you have Dunhill cigarettes?” “But you used to keep it, why can’t you bring it for me. I’ll pay.” “Do you have cup cakes?” then there was a person who was whispering conspiratorially with the chemist. Later the chemist told me in a sheepish tone that our man was insisting that he get a very specific brand of condom, others won’t do.
This sense of entitlement and complete disregard for your own and others’ safety makes you feel how hollow is the standard blabbering of the economists, policymakers and the chatterati circuit in general that says, “literacy and economic empowerment will bring in a kind of improved human resource and better citizens.”
If this is the way the well off, well placed and well cared for are behaving then we can’t grudge those who are really suffering in these times of crisis.
The mindless crowding thrice during the last 21 days not only in a particular well-off sector in NOIDA but in every part of the country is what will play out in the coming days in the form of COVID19 spread.
One can say people will pay for their avarice. But the sad part is many will pay for the avarice of the few. That’s unfair.

About indiadynamic

mediaperson worked for TWI, TVI, Dainik Bhaskar, UTV and Hindustan Times in all the divisions print, TV, radio and internet
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