Don’t make Mask a Monster: Adopt the New York Way

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

When the people need a friendly government to help them bear with and overcome the Corona catastrophe, our state government has emerged a terror and a scourge.
It has created a new mischief namely the Odisha COVID-19 (Amendment) Regulation 2020 to enforce the rigorous amendment it had done to Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 on the 8th April, in order to subject whoever found outside his/her home without a mask. The quantum of punishment is imprisonment up to 2 years and fine up to Rs.10,000/- with provision to compound the jail term.

In this amendment Regulation No 4-A has been inserted to the Regulation created on 3rd April 2020. Under this Regulation, whosoever doesn’t stay home and found anywhere outside without a mask shall be punished, as mentioned above.

Regulation 4-A has 5 sub-regulations, each one legally complicated and designed to subject the people to State terror and promote a Police-Raj.

Sadly,our people, who are being tortured under the E.D.Act will be more tormented under this regulation including the amendment dated 9th April 2020 without being helped by the government to know what these legal instruments really say.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has not paid any heed to our repeated demand that all the documents including such regulations be made available in the net in Oriya language, so that our people may be able to know through their mobile phones what are they required to do to “fight” (as the government says) against this dreaded virus.

The Regulation provides for rigorous punishment against the “offence” of not using masks outside the home. But people do not know why should they use the masks. Using mask for escaping personally the police lathi or jail is not the same as using mask for love and concern for fellow beings.

Social distancing cannot and must not be made social distress. The Chief Minister ought to understand the minimum this. He should understand that, enforced social distancing under the mischief of the Act of 1897 and COVID-19 Regulation of 2020 has put the people in serious social distress.

On Friday the 10th April, Orissa’s Director of Medical Education and Training, Dr. C.B.K. Mohanty has revealed in Corona Press Briefing that, “reports have been received about people attempting suicide after being placed under home quarantine.”

Had the government not terrorized our absolutely ignorant people by using brutal force of the police against them in the guise of Corona care, none of them would have attempted to commit suicide.

Dr. Mohanty had said, about 2 lakhs of people need be screened through rapid test of COVID-19 and the sooner that is possible, the better; because thereby quarantine for a large number of people may not be necessary. Government is silent. Government is silent over why it is not conducting the rapid tests.

People are being pushed into pusillanimity by use of Police force, when, like a guardian in the family, the Government should have been encouraging us to meet the calamity with courage. The last stroke it has given to our people is amendment of the Odisha COVID-19 Regulation 2020 to punish our innocent and ignorant people with 2 years’ imprisonment with fine up to Rs.10,000/- for not using mask outside home.

If the Chief Minister persuades himself to know what should be the manner of the people in face of pandemic that COVID-19 is, I would recommend him to study the situation at New York of USA. Worst hit by the virus, the State has not used police to compel the people stay home. Saswat Pattanayak,whose authentic work on super cyclone 1999 – The Fall and the Rise – he was kind enough to launch, has captioned his report on the New York situation as “New York- Bleeding, Dying, Living.”

I am tempted to put an extract here to show what has happened to the New York City:

The city that never sleeps is sleeping nights and sleeping days. The city which opens its heart and harbors to people from across the world is today hiding from its own residents. The lights of the Times Square are still on, and they are screaming at the darkness of the broad daylight. The Empire State Building bulbs are no longer marking different festivals, but only flickering red as though to reflect the blood from the streets. The heartbeats of those bulbs, no one seems to hear. The color of red no one wants to see. The ambulances don’t need to wait for other vehicles on the empty streets. Every street, avenue, and intersection is suddenly a memory book of a very distant past, which they say happened only a few days ago. The journal pages chronicling the moments don’t, and won’t read the same anymore. The city which used to make a year seem like a fleeting moment, that made one crave for time to halt because too many things were happening at the same time; now it makes an hour seem like years. The clock of pace has stopped for New York. Its only a tick-tock of death counts. There is no Manic Monday to complain about. There is nothing to thank God for any Friday.

The reporter writes,

Those who don’t know this city, ask why is there no lockdown? They don’t realize it has already locked itself down. It’s locked in grief and down with tears. Don’t you see, New York City didn’t have to get caged. We have voluntarily locked ourselves in.

And, he says:

The city that houses people from all over the world, which represents all the cultures known to the world – this population, the very cosmopolitan people, bohemian people, greedy corporate people, dreamy debt-ridden people – all of them have voluntarily remained at home. Out of concern for the others, they have stayed home.

Yet, all of them, the survivors, use Masks. Not under force of any Law like the one Sri Patnaik has jeopardized us with. They use it for their love for others. As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has said, “This virus is truly vicious, and we all have an obligation to do what we can to protect each other and to protect the most vulnerable.”

The Governor has created a hashtag that people gladly accept and say, for whom they use the Mask. The hashtag is #IStayHomeFor and people proceed to write for whom they stay home, such as #IStayHomeFor safety of my friend or my neighbor or the likes. Thus, when someone fills up the Governor’s hashtag, he automatically expresses his concern for the fellow being and that concern also makes him use the mask for others that are immunocompromised.

Here we have made the mask a monster. Use it or go to jail and pay the fine.
This must end. We should use the mask with concern for the fellow beings, not as a mark of subjugation to Police Raj.

Our Chief Minister may please follow the pattern created by New York Governor Mr. Andrew M.Cuomo and create a similar hashtag to help people know of the danger and the need to use the mask for their loved ones, their friends, their neighbors and their country.

And, let him ensure that all the Corona related documents and regulations are immediately published in Oriya language and posted in websites for public knowledge.

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