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'Super-spreaders' on move off Gujarat capital without social distancing, masks

By Kevin Antao*
Recently, as a photo journalist based in Gandhinagar, the Gujarat capital, I decided to take a round of some of the newly-developing areas around the city. Coronavirus is still a reality and is claiming lives. There is a lot of talk about wearing masks and social distancing. I found people were being fined for not wearing mask by the law enforcement authorities.
However, to my utter surprise, as I moved to Sargasan, 10 km from the city, where massive construction activity is going on, things were very different. Tractors and minivans were found to be carrying construction workers packed like sardines without masks, and social distancing gone for a six. Workers on the move sat on a Bharat Tractor – it was truly a Bharat on the move! Wouldn’t these workers very soon become super spreaders?, I wondered.
The area around the Gujarat capital is witnessing a massive boom in construction business. After the first Unlock-1 was declared on June 1, 2020, many migrant workers, who had desperately left Gujarat to their home state, many of them walking for hundreds of kilometres, have begun to return. The result is, work activities have started picking up, with builders seeking to meet their deadline.
However, today, when Covid-19 continues to be a hard reality across the entire world, including India, claiming lives every day, with more than 16 lakh cases in the country, and the numbers rising every day, social distancing appears to have taken the backseat. Our Prime Minister no doubt keeps reminding citizens to wear mask and to maintain social distance. Sadly, however, his message is not taken seriously.
Workers on the move sat on a Bharat Tractor – a true Bharat on the move! Wouldn’t these workers soon become super spreaders?
Like in Sargasan, elsewhere, too, within of distance of just 7 to 10 km from Gandhinagar, one can see mini-vans and tractor trailers carrying migrant workers (men, women and babies) packed like sardines sticking to one another without mask, on the move from early morning to late evening, going to and fro, across different sites. Many of them pass through the main roads of Gandhinagar. They are seen by the police force on duty, yet no action is taken.
Vegetable vendors and others have been labelled as super spreaders in Ahmedabad , Vadodara, Surat and many other major cities of Gujarat. Why isn’t the state government taking action against those who are moving around freely, violating the safety guidelines? People are fined for not wearing a face mask and spitting. Why is no action in this case, especially against those who employ them, allowing them not to maintain social distance or wear mask?
Recently Gandhinagar city and district saw a rise in Covid-19 cases. Seeing the increase in cases across other districts in the state, isn’t it time the government takes note of this and asks builders to at least ensure that these workers do not become super spreaders?
People are bombarded with advertisements and messages on television on the need to wash hands, wear mask and maintain social distance. Largely uneducated and ignorant, migrant workers may not be taking these guidelines and information seriously. Why are the builders, who consider themselves educated, not taking these guidelines seriously and provide masks to workers and see that social distancing is maintained?
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*Senior photo journalist based in Gandhinagar

Comments

Anonymous said…
Very sad but true Bharat, sir you brought up the facts.
Very nice article.

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