Since the Corona epidemic began last year, the debate on life and livelihood has become one of the most discussed issues. The moot question is which is more important than the other. This issue is being discussed in all cases starting from developed countries to developing countries like Bangladesh. At the centre of the discussion are politicians who want to politicise the issue. While the government desperately seeks to deal with the Corona situation by maintaining a kind of balance between people's lives and livelihoods, the opposition politicians have always been critical of all government decisions. According to them, the government has to save the lives of the people on the one hand and create opportunity for the people's livelihood on the other. Such an argument can never be accepted. We all must bear in mind that it is impossible to provide month long assistance to the people staying at homes in a country like Bangladesh. Therefore, the long-term implementation of the most important tool to deal with this corona epidemic - also known as lockdown - is very difficult in an economy like Bangladesh.
We all know that we could manage the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with great success due to the Hon'ble Prime Minister's prudent leadership. Various sections of the public criticised the government's decision after they announced public holidays instead of a lockdown in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision to reopen the factories and garments during the public holidays was also criticised. Many thought that such a decision could lead to severe infections. We are very fortunate that the prime minister's decision was very fruitful, and we were all able to fight together to overcome the first wave.When the second wave of Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on South Asian countries including Bangladesh, the issue that has become the focus of discussion is whether we will save our lives or leave everything open for livelihood. The government has been carrying out a countrywide lockdown for the last three weeks. If we judge the issue from a public health perspective, there can be no solution to the Corona outbreak except enforcement of a complete lockdown. At the same time, we must consider how long an economy like Bangladesh can remain under complete lockdown. This may be why the government took a very firm stand from time to time, but later it is being forced to decide to open the shopping malls on the condition of complying with the hygiene rules.
It is needless to say that the strict implementation of the lockdown is one of the strongest mechanisms to deal with the Corona epidemic, the benefits of which we have already observed. The implementation of a fairly stringent lockdown over the last three weeks has reduced the infection rate from 25% to 12%. We need to keep in mind that the South African variant was found in Bangladesh during the second wave of the Corona outbreak, which is much more powerful than the first wave strains. These strains could push a patient to death by neutralising the human immune system in a very short time. As a result, there is no scope for the people to show reluctance or laxity in following the safety rules in any of our sectors. Awful days are awaiting us if we do not fully comply with the safety measures prescribed by the government.
The Hon'ble Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has already stated that the primary duty of the government is to protect the lives of the people. Because we must comprehend that life is not for livelihood, but livelihood is for life. If we do not stay alive, then what will happen to livelihood? As a result, the most important thing is to keep the people at home to stay safe from contamination. We have already known that the government has extended the lockdown for another week. There is no denial that many people in the country - who live from hand to mouth – live a wretched life during this lockdown. These people are not getting food twice a day as they have no income. However, it is also true that if we all work together for a while, the situation will improve in a very short time, which will benefit the country and the nation.
If we look at our neighbouring country, we will see that India did not suffer as much in the first wave as Bangladesh. As a result, in a very short time, the first wave of Corona passed, and normal life started again in the country. We noticed that the Indian government opened everything to keep the economy moving. Simultaneously, elections have been held in various states, including West Bengal, due to constitutional obligations. Also, people of different religions were allowed to celebrate the religious programs in religious institutions there. The Corona pandemic in India has taken a terrible turn in the last few weeks due to the reluctance of the people to abide by safety protocols and free movement. India is setting new records of patients and deaths every day, breaking previous records. A scarcity of oxygen causes many people to die in India. The air is becoming heavy due to the scream of the relatives of the patients. There is not much space and opportunity to bury or cremate the dead bodies.
In this situation, many countries of the world have extended their support to India. We have already learnt about the identification of Corona triple mutant in India, which is 300 per cent more susceptible to infection than the previous strains. Moreover, these strains are so powerful that they can easily penetrate the human body's immune system and cause death. Even vaccinations do not work properly against these strains. It will not be easy to cope with the situation if the triple mutant virus reaches our country. Taking this issue seriously, the government has announced a closure of all borders with India for two weeks. I think this is a wise decision on the part of the government. We have already noticed the shortage of ordinary beds, including ICUs, in the country's hospitals. The deficiency of oxygen supply has already been noticed. India has completely cut off the supply of oxygen. As a result, we all need to realise the horrors of the situation before the situation takes a terrible turn.
We must note that many people came to Bangladesh from India last week. We have heard that many of them have been afflicted with Corona since after their return. Meanwhile, the government mandated 14-day quarantine (3 days institutional and 11 days home) for all people who travel from India to Bangladesh. However, if we do not strictly enforce this decision, people carrying the triple mutant virus will infect others in society. We have learnt through newspaper reports that ten Corona patients, who came from India, tried to flee from Jashore Hospital. The police could, however, track them later. Had a vast majority of citizens thought for their family members, the country and the nation as a whole, this delicate situation of the second wave of Corona would not have arisen. Citizens are responsible for this situation more than the government because there has always been laxity among a large section of the population in complying with the safety measures.Therefore, we have to admit that the government alone cannot overcome this pandemic. The government, as well as citizens, have to work with the same sense of responsibility. In this situation, all of us (various non-governmental organisations, individuals, and business organisations) must come forward to stand by the poor. If we could manage to help one person from our position, we will be able to overcome the catastrophic effect of the pandemic quickly. We must bear in mind that we are made for helping each other. Let us learn a lesson from the Indian experience and attempt to work together to get out of the current situation. We all should pray that all the countries of the world, including Bangladesh, overcome the horrors of the Corona pandemic and return to normal life in a short time.
The writer is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi