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Lockdown: Combatting misinformation from WhatsApp university, other media

By Rohit Prajapati*
Lockdown. Lockdown is a statement in it itself. It encompasses strategies, methods, time-period, plans, and tools for helping and managing people’s behaviour in such extreme situations in a country, state, or other units of governments. From locking a house to businesses, to industries to neighbourhoods, and even to the entire state or country, there is a different way to go about implementing lockdown in each of them.
Each situation presents its own peculiarities to achieve the main goals of a lockdown and to prevent chaotic situations and panic. Each situation requires its own detailed short and long-term plan, well-thought strategies including fall-back plans based on various “what-if” scenarios, resources, and multidisciplinary expert’s teamwork.
Review of the ground level information, conditions, and feedback from people at regular intervals are also very crucial and a must. Try experiencing the Lockdown with an empty stomach, and uncertainty not for one day but for coming months. We the People -- at Home, without Home on Footpaths, Migrants, Workers of Informal Sector, Self-Employed, Unemployed, Underemployed -- Belong to Different Castes, Religions and Class; each one facing common but distinct problems in the times of Covid-2019.
Adhoc imposition of Lockdown, Partial Lifting of Lockdown and Complete Lifting of Lockdown may prove to be disastrous. Adhocism in any situation is always a problem and the systems need to and can find the appropriate solutions.
Partial and complete lockdowns need to be well defined. Status and logistics of various basic services -- healthcare, education, financial services, food storage and supply (including vegetables, milk, and its products, cereal, etc), agricultural activities, the supply and handling of products required for healthcare and other essential services, police services, legal services, fire-water-sanitation, funeral services and other municipal services (water supply, sanitation, and solid waste disposal), transport services, distribution services (medicines and food in particular), news and media services, and such -- will have to be defined in partial and complete lockdown.
Guidelines for home quarantine, hospital quarantine, isolation will have to be prepared. The people engaged in different activities will have to be kept in mind, e.g. homeless people, workers of informal sector, migrant workers and their family, self-employed, domestic workers, security guards, etc.
It is time for experts with on-ground inputs and key stakeholders to initiate meaningful discussion at state and national level
This is a national crisis and the entire population is affected. Hence, there is need for an agile consultation process before taking decisions. Empty stomachs of millions of unemployed, marginalised poor people, and millions of migrant labourers who have been stranded in worksites across country, unable to return home, desperate to survive with no rations, cash and access to medical facilities, cannot be ignored.
Thus, it is quite apparent that in such a situation of a lockdown, information and its implementation needs to be a disseminated as comprehensive, coordinated, and well spelled out document, regulations that has many details. This document is not a defence secret and that is why people have a right to know about those details. These short-term and long-term details should be worked out with inputs from the grass-root stakeholders and should be announced in a timely manner.
This will help minimise the anxiety of all the concerned people, including the emergency service works of all types and those who are affected by it physically, mentally, socially, and financially. If the people do not have apprehension because of lack of information, lockdown will be very effective in terms of its implementation and desired outcomes.
It provides the ground for a meaningful discussion in right direction to make it more effective and transparent. In all this process, transparency and open and timely communication are very crucial. They help us to plan for partial lifting and even complete lifting of a lockdown with possibly most positive results.
It is time for experts to initiate a meaningful discussion on this issue at state and national level. It is time for experts with the inputs of on-ground personnel and key stakeholders to initiate a meaningful discussion on this issue at state and national levels and help minimise the misinformation from “WhatsApp University” and other media.
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*Environment activist, researcher and writer

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