ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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COVID-19 to Lockdown (Mis)-management

The Perils of Law and Governance in India

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be the biggest humanitarian disaster of the century. This crisis has been effectuated due to the authoritativeness of the state that has used its powers under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the hitherto Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 without paying heed to the decentralisation of powers, devolution of duties, and building community resilience.

The world is hostage to an un­prece­dented crisis in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. This outbreak, which started off from a small city in the eastern part of Wuhan, China with a population of over 11 million, has now spread to 216 countries and territories around the world affecting more than six million population worldwide1 (WHO 2020). The ramifications of this microorganism led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare it as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on 30 January 2020 that was soon followed up by declaring it a pandemic—due to the escalation of the number of cases globally—on 11 March 2020.

India witnessed its first COVID-19 positive case on 30 January 2020, which unwittingly coincided with the WHO declaration of the outbreak as a public health emergency. This virus, which spread from the droplets released through bre­athing, coughing, talking, and sneezing (WHO 2020), was non-native to India and finally spread in the country through the air traffic movement of international passengers. As per the estimates of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the passenger air traffic movement in the initial months of the year from January–March 2020, which also remain­ed the peak months for the global outbreak of this virus, was 6.49 million, 5.41 million, and 2.57 million, respectively. The metro cities remained the busiest airports of the country in terms of passenger traffic with New Delhi and Mumbai occupying the top positions followed by Kochi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad between January 2020 and March 2020 (Table 1). The global spread of the virus and the anno­uncement of the WHO to declare it a pandemic led the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs (MoHFW) to issue a travel advisory for international travellers coming from or having visited China, ­Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany that they shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.2 However, these advisories remai­ned unenforceable in the absence of any guideline by the MoHFW and strict adhe­rence to contact tracing, incapacity of district officials, inadequate testing, and follow-up measures to mitigate the unintended consequences. What could have been averted as an outbreak, which was initially limited to urban agglo­merations with enhancing capacities of district health officials and stern adherence to guidelines, contact tracing, testing, and building community resilience, was ins­tead precluded with a series of draconian lockdowns that ultimately turned the crisis into one of the biggest humanitarian disaster.

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Updated On : 11th Apr, 2022
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