From the Viewsroom

Callous and irresponsible

Poornima Joshi | Updated on April 13, 2021

Religious congregations, poll rallies blithely ignore raging Covid

That a collective sense of fear and sorrow in the face of the steepest surge of Covid-19 pandemic should drive people towards overt religiosity is perhaps understandable. What is unforgivable is those in authority actively channelling these palpable fears into absolutely irresponsible public conduct.

This week, the Uttarakhand government did not just allow as many as 31 lakh devotees, it even arranged for helicopters to shower flower petals as religious contingents marched on the streets of Haridwar, most of them without masks. Haridwar had already registered 373 fresh coronavirus cases on Sunday even before the event. Many among the devotees and their leaders, the chief priest of the biggest collective Niranjani Akhara, Mahant Narendra Giri, was diagnosed Covid positive. But that did not deter his son, Anand Giri, from leading the procession for the holy dip. State Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat has, meanwhile, addressed fears about the Maha Kumbh being a super-spreader event by asserting that “the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus”.

In a different context, all pretence at having a “virtual campaign”, the fig leaf that was donned to justify holding the Bihar Assembly elections in the middle of the pandemic last year, has been dropped in favour of a no-holds-barred, collect-the-crowd campaign especially in the eight-phase-long West Bengal polls. Every political party somehow forgets about the raging pandemic as soon as elections are announced in any State. Given the gravity of the situation, the Election Commission has done precious little.

“It is widely known that in recent weeks, Covid cases are being reported in larger numbers. However, instances of election meetings/campaigns have come to the notice of the Commission where norms of social distancing, wearing of masks have been flouted in disregard to the Commission’s guidelines,” said the EC in a letter to all parties in Bengal on April 9. Did anyone hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior members of his Cabinet or Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee advising participants in their rallies accordingly?

Published on April 13, 2021

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