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Negligence or misfortune?

Negligence or misfortune?

Delhi's Nizamuddin Markaz incident is a glaring incident of lapses. Not only has it raised apprehension of a steep climb in cases but it also appears to be a gross violation of social distancing measures that were issued mid-March by the Delhi administration. With the Telangana government announcing six fresh deaths due to Covid-19 of those who had attended the congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz, and at least 24 testing positive in Delhi alone besides Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andaman, etc., the fear of community transmission as arisen dangerously. It is learnt that the religious congregation saw over 2000 people assemble at the Markaz from parts of India as well as Indonesia and Malaysia in mid-March. Thereafter, while some departed as visa cancellation measures had begun, others stuck around only to be stranded due to lockdown measures. Delhi Police zeroed in on the mosque complex on Monday from where over a thousand people were either sent to isolation centres or hospitals for testing. While the inquiry into the incident takes shape, the mosque administration on Tuesday apprised of its attempts to comply with lockdown protocols. It said that a large group of visitors were stuck at the Markaz as the government suspended all passenger train operations across the country till March 31. The clarification from the mosque administration comes in the wake of the Delhi government's decision to take strong action against those in charge of the establishment. Irrespective of the clarification, there exists the grave carelessness to organise such an event when the WHO had announced a pandemic and cases had begun rising in India since the beginning of March. In all likelihood, the organisers of the congregation should have deferred the exercise indefinitely. Neither would people have collected and nor would there have been a risk of infection. There hangs a humungous task of tracking all those who attended the congregation and thereafter, all those whom the attendees met following their departure from Delhi. Simple math will yield over a thousand suspects easily. Given how cases have been reported positive from that congregation, the carelessness has already lead to a disaster. Even as authorities race to perform damage control, what comes to the fore is the sheer negligence to adhere to moral responsibilities. Those in charge of the establishment cannot deny the threat of pandemic that stood even as they went ahead with their religious meeting nevertheless their appeal of not having violated any law since a national lockdown was not in effect till then. Should it then be termed as negligence or misfortune?

The Nizam incident shares similarity to the South Korean church incident where a woman — dubbed as patient 31 — had infected hundreds during a secret church service that later was accounted as first of the explosive wave of cases that rose South Korea's cases exponentially. It also points to how religious congregations are particularly dangerous in these circumstances. That secretive church was somewhat at the centre of South Korea's explosion of cases. Albeit unintentionally, patient 31 had risked countless lives due to her religious commitments. Likewise, in pursuit of their religious commitments, those who gathered at the Nizamuddin Markaz may have risked several hundred others. In times of such an outbreak, it must be noted that people may suffer more from lapses on personal account rather than the virus itself. Social distancing is the only tool to prevent the spread and yet people were found clapping hands in gatherings in the wake of the Janta Curfew called by the PM. Even if the administration takes sound measures to restrict the spread, issuing guidelines for the general public, it is always the adherence part that requires maximum effort. One can blame the administration for abruptly coming up with lockdown arrangements but implementation largely rests on sound public adherence to the issued measures which must be necessarily factored in this context.

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