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Ayodhya, Kumbh: 85% people wanted sacred places closed, 50% 'favoured' lockdown

By Rajiv Shah 

A new Covid survey report, published by well-known human rights organisation Anhad, has said that 84.7 per cent of 2,243 respondents said it was necessary for all religious places to be closed down during the second wave of Covid-19. In sharp contrast, only 49.5 per cent supported the lockdown, with 37.5 per cent saying they were “unhappy” with it, insisting, it created problems instead of presenting a solution, 36.7 percent reported loss of earning and 32.5 percent said their freedom to move was curtailed.
Carried out among educated sections of several Indian States, the report appears to suggest, holding massive events like Kumbh at Haridwar led to the spread of the virus across the country, the report titled “The Covid Survey report The Second Pulse of the Pandemic: A Sudden Surge in the Scientific Temper during the Covid-19 Crises.”
It says, “We asked in view of second wave should all religious places be closed, if yes for how long. About 32.2 per cent of the respondents thought that the religious places should have been closed for three months, , 18.0 per cent thought that the closure should be for six months and 16 per cent believed that it should be for one year.”
Apparently blaming the way the Government of India handled the pandemic, the report says, 50.2 per cent of the respondents directly held the government responsible for the second wave”, though about 21.9 per cent thought that “people themselves were responsible.” Another 18.9 per cent believed that since the SARS-CoV-2 mutated, “the new strand was responsible for virility as well as mortality during the second wave.”
The report – authored by Gauhar Raza, former professor at the The Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research and chief scientist at the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources; and Surjit Singh, asociate professor, Indira Gandhi University, Meerpur, Rewari, who has served at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research for 35 years – adds, “Almost one in ten respondents thought that the religious places must be closed for ever. An equal number (9.5%) emphatically argued for ‘no closure'. 11.9 per cent were non-committal.”
The report further says, “In answer to the question, India has large number of religious places, do you think we need more hospitals compared to religious places, quite clearly and overwhelmingly Indian citizens were found to be in favour of hospitals instead of religious places. In response to this question about 90 per cent of the respondents have voted for constructing more hospital compared to religious places. Construction of religious places garnered only 2.2 per cent votes.”
The report comments, “Ironically, the government has refused to stop expenditure on religious places and use the funds to strengthen the health infrastructure. Even during the period of profound grief and deaths when in other countries, rich and poor alike woke up to stop expenditure on non-essential projects in India the construction of new parliamentary vista was not put to a halt, instead the government passed special guidelines to continue the work.”
It continues, “Way back in October 2020, many groups of scientists had warned that the pandemic may intensify in future and the predictive models had suggested curative measures. Instead of paying heed to what was being advised, as the number of cases reduced, political leadership and policy makers hurried to take credit. Patting the backs, they claimed that their policies and decisions saved lives. They allowed and organized Kumbh Mela, religious gathering, open religious places and held political rallies where hundreds of thousands congregated without observing Covid protocol.”
Also taking strong exception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating construction of a “massive temple at a disputed site in Ayodhya”, the report says, as for the Kumbh Mela, organised at Haridwar, “The State government of Uttaranchal advertised the event and welcomed people from all over the country and millions participated.”
When asked from where the pandemic had come, respondents overwhelmingly (74 per cent) “understood” that it was “brought into the country by those who had come from abroad”, the report says, though adding, just about 4.9 per cent “thought that it has been brought and spread into the country by Tablighi Jamat, which is a religious organization of Sunni Muslims.” Interestingly, “About 4.4 per cent blamed the rich and 0.3 per cent thought the poor must be blamed for spreading the scourge.”
The authors believe, “The virus known as the Delta variant had emerged in parts of Maharashtra, and due to laxity”, and it got “a chance to spread rapidly through the country and the world”, adding, “There was mayhem in India with its weak health system, especially in the vast hinterland. Infections and deaths grew exponentially in March 2021. Super spreader events (elections and Kumbh) helped spread it. Allowing these events was a political decision by the Centre – a big mistake.”
Those who helped carry out the survey on the basis of data collected through online and offline questionnaire included Leena Dabiru, legal and development consultant, and Shabnam Hashmi, social activist and founder, Anhad. Of those who surveyed were from Delhi (17.3%), followed by Maharashtra (11.9%), Haryana (11.3%) and Gujarat (11.0%), Uttar Pradesh (7.3%), Jammu and Kashmir (6.9%) and Madhya Pradesh (5.2%).
“The intensity of Covid-19 pandemic did not permit us to conduct face-to-face interviews and therefore we could not approach those who do not have reading and writing skills”, the report says. “As a result the level of education of the sampled population was quite high with 35.9 per cent graduates and 36.3 percent post-graduates.”

Comments

Neither the UPA government nor the NDA--past and present--has spent on health infrastructure. The problem is that this time it was essential to give it priority, which the government failed to do.

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