Fifty-eight days after the lockdown was first imposed, parts of the country are beginning to open up. The national capital, despite a high number of cases and deaths, returned to near-normal on Tuesday. Markets were open while shops were allowed to open on alternate days. Public transport was back with fewer passengers allowed on board. Private bus operators doubled the fare unilaterally in order to compensate for half the number of passengers they were permitted to carry till the threat of the virus remained. Other parts of the country as well, barring, of course, Mumbai, which is in the severe grip of the coronavirus, too are easing restrictions. Industrial units have been allowed to restart with full workforce in Haryana. Difficulties remain about the missing workers a number of whom have returned home. Unless the situation stabilises, these workers who returned home after suffering great hardships and in many cases after shelling out large sums of money on illegal carriers such as trucks, oil tankers, cement mixers, etc., might not return to their pre-pandemic jobs. That in spite of the slow but certain return to normalcy tens of thousands of migrant workers are still going back to their villages underlines the prevailing uncertainty in the country.
If the economy is restarting, an effort ought to be made by respective State and UT governments to try and persuade the migrant workers not to leave their places of work. Unfortunately, partisan politics is being played in the name of migrant workers. Political parties are exploiting their predicament to score brownie points against one another. Of late, Priyanaka Vadra has been hyper-active on social media, trying to create the impression that the wellbeing of migrants is her central concern, tweeting every other day to show the UP Government in bad light. But in her zeal to advertise her sympathy for the migrants she seemed to have gone overboard, listing in the 1,000 buses her party committed to provide to ferry these hapless people to their village-homes, three-wheelers, two-wheelers, ambulances and even disused vehicle registration numbers. The UP Government was quick to expose the PR stunt. It also arrested two of her close aides for obstructing and misleading the district authorities.
Meanwhile, the Bihar Government is concerned that the return of migrants from various States has posed a serious health threat. At least 500 migrants who recently returned home have been found to be coronavirus-positive. Even if there is a sense of resignation in the country among the ordinary people and governments that one has to live with the virus, efforts to prevent the spread of the infection cannot be discontinued. It is therefore of utmost importance that everyone follows the laid-down drill, staying safe and healthy by stirring out only when one must and observing social distance norms and washing hands multiple times during the day. Until the discovery of a vaccine, the world, and not just India, will have to remain on its guard against the deadly virus.