The challenge for the Odisha government is even greater than that of some other states of Indian Union. The state has no much health infrastructures till date to accommodate a huge number of COVID-19 patients, if it spreads like China Italy and Spain. Secondly, as one of the states with a huge outgo of migrant workers, it would be a tough task to look after the well-being of its people stranded in other states
With Coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc across the globe claiming the lives of thousands of people, Odisha government under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik came up with a six-month action plan to wage a strategic war against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) – the WHO declared pandemic in close coordination with Govt. of India.
As part of the action plan, a high-level committee has been constituted at state level and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is said to be directly monitoring its functioning through a Group of Ministers. For the first time, the latest updates on Coronavirus are being conveyed to the people of the State through Media briefing at 4.30 PM every day by the Chairman of Odisha Skill Development Aiuthority Subroto Bagchi, the newly appointed Chief Spokesperson on COVID-19. The Chief Minister has asked the team to remain alert for at least six months. “With the support of the public, we will go ahead with the fight against Coronavirus,” said Subroto Bagchi. The Mantra of the action plan is social distancing without panicking is the most important aspect in containing Coronavirus. A team of young and energetic IAS officers Somesh Kumar Upadhyay, Ms P Anvesha Reddy, Patil Asish Ishwar and Divakara TS are said to have been posted as officers on special duty in the health and family welfare department in addition to their own duty for enforcement of the ‘Odisha COVID-19 Regulation, 2020.
It’s already a scary situation, the kind that people have perhaps not seen in their lifetime. People have accepted to abide by the direction of the government. There will be no large family, social or religious gatherings, no seminars or workshops, no schools or colleges, no cinema or theatre, no visits to tourist places, no entertainment or merry-making, no evening walk in parks. Even public have accepted ban on darshan of Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri. While marriages, receptions, thread ceremonies and the like have not been banned as yet, restrictions have been imposed on the number of invitees and ceiling on gathering. Given the paucity of staff, the restrictions are hard to enforce for the authorities and easy to flout for those who are part of such gatherings. But the general public have expressed their solidarity with the hard decision of the government barring few incidents by unruly youth and alike.
Meanwhile, Coronavirus outbreak has badly hit the business in the State with people preferring not to visit shopping malls and markets fearing contamination of the virus. The retail business has reportedly dropped by 35 per cent in the last couple of days, when this report got prepared, rising worries of the traders.
Shopping malls in Bhubaneswar and elsewhere, which usually witness heavy rush on holidays like Sunday, wore a deserted look on March 22, the day of Janata Curfew and beginning of lock down. Though some traders opened their shops and wore masks on their face, many shops remained closed since then.
Store managers of shopping malls provided masks and hand wash to their staff members. Malgodown, which is the hub of business in Cuttack, also bore the brunt of the global pandemic. Traders who set up their shops here have reportedly not come to the place since March 22. While the business establishments across the State do a business of Rs 400 crore every day, the figure has come down to Rs 200 to Rs 250 crore now. Traders attributed the low business to the closure of schools, suspension of classes in coaching centres and low marriage and other social parties. They fear that if such a situation continues, it will hit hard the economy of the State. As the government has imposed restriction, the consumption of people has decreased which led to drop in purchasing. The crisis will become bigger in coming days, traders fear. As estimated by the Odisha State Traders’ Federation, the government is losing Rs 700 to 800 crore every day due to the crisis. If the situation continues, it will upset the economy and state budget.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik through a tweet advised people to adopt some safety measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. He asked people to keep away from social gatherings like marriage parties and religious congregation. The CM further advised people who visit to the outside state to give details by dialling tollfree number 104.
The challenge for the Odisha government, in particular, is even greater than that of some other states of Indian Union. The state has no much health infrastructures till date to accommodate a huge number of COVID-19 patients, if it spreads like China Italy and Spain. Secondly, as one of the states with a huge outgo of migrant workers, estimated to be around four million – the others being Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and UP – it would be a tough task for the Odisha government, already struggling with the huge task of checking the spread of the pandemic, to look after the well-being of its people stranded in other states.
The enormity of the challenge requires a temporary redrawing of the equations between various arms of the polity. The Opposition has already refrained from lashing out at the government day in and day out. The intelligentsia, the media and the common people have kept their daggers on hold and extended support by assisting government efforts to meet the enormous challenge; as it is the call of the time.