IF ANYONE THOUGHT the government or the ruling party politicians or those in the opposition, or our religious leaders, were at all concerned about the health of the citizens, or even about their life, just watch what they did in the last 48 hours.
At a time when the world is in a battle mode on the issue of the novel corona virus, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh spewed venom against political adversary Sukhbir Singh Badal, who spitted back as much as he could.
How casually has the state government been undertaking pre-emptive measures will be clear from its order asking that all schools be shut down. The order came with an exception for schools where examinations were taking place.
But the government probably did not notice that all schools were in the examination mode, and all the school going children had no option but to venture out and be in the school.
So, the order to shut down all schools effectively meant 'shut down no school at all.' A faux pas like this happens when we start getting education ministers with little understanding of education.
The government of Captain Amarinder Singh has been perfunctorily advising people to maintain social distance, but the chief minister is busy appearing on public platforms with hundreds of people sitting next to each other, and toasting his government's three years in power.
It is not clear what are the government’s achievements, considering that the head of the party's state unit keeps publicly complaining about the state of affairs and has even been demanding the resignation of the top law officer.
At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the SGPC is making a huge show about taking precautions in view of the coronavirus, but one serious look at the instructions and you would find them laughable, or even designed to aid the spread of the contagion.
The SGPC sewadars are now regulating the distance between any two devotees, but they are forgetting that when one after another devotee bows his or her head at the same place, placing both the palms on the side, touching the golden rails along the causeway and inside the sanctum sanctorum, that's exactly as per any manual on "how to successfully spread Coronavirus."
Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad has been
closed to the public
Ironically, the mess up on the part of the SGPC comes at a time when religious authorities all over the world are taking steps to limit contact or close places of worship in response to the pandemic.
In one of the most disappointing incidents, Shia Muslims in Iran entered the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad and the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom on March 16, Monday, night, protesting the closure of these places that are normally open for prayers around the clock.
Iranian health officials had told pilgrims that kissing and touching the shrines could spread the virus, and had urged clergy to close them for weeks, but worshippers chanted objections to the closures.
At the Vatican, the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the global 1.2 billion Roman Catholic population, Holy Week celebrations and services will take place without the physical presence of worshippers. Instead, they will be livestreamed, and broadcast on radio and television.
The world is planning to mark Easter and Passover next month without devotees venturing out, while the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – during which most of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims will fast – begins around 23 April.
St Peter’s Basilica Square is closed and the pope’s daily 7am mass, the Angelus on Sundays, and his weekly general audience are being livestreamed and broadcast.
But what are our religious authorities doing? At the SGPC-run Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, till as late as March 15, the management was giving calls to the devout to reach the gurdwara in large numbers for kar sewa.
Someone should actually have been arrested and put behind bars for endangering the life of the citizens and misusing the name of the shrine and the Guru, but, instead, it took some strong objections by alert citizens and members of the sangat
that forced the management to postpone the venture.
Despite objections by many, the SGPC-appointed Head Granthi of the shrine issued a message on social media, saying all the sangat must come for kar sewa of the sarovar: "ਆਪ ਜੀ ਨੂੰ ਬੇਨਤੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਸਮੇਤ ਪਹੁੰਚਣ ਦੀ ਕਿਰਪਾਲਤਾ ਕਰਨੀ."
Later, in a message, the management actually conceded that it was postponing the kar sewa in view of the government orders and demands of some Sikhs, not because it itself realised the blunder it had prepared to commit.
But, on March 17, a large number of devout insisted on doing the kar sewa
and all that the authorities/management did was to stay away from the kar sewa
and watch it from a distance. The management is now saying that it was helpless since the sangat
insisted on doing kar sewa
Whose job was it to not let that happen? What part of the responsibility for such criminal abdication of duty at the Gurughar should be attributed to the SGPC?
Who are the managers of the gurudwara who caused and allowed such a grave exposure? If there is any outbreak of the virus, who will be held responsible for besmirching the name of the Sikh community?
On Sunday, the Italian police had dispersed people attending a mass at the church of St Francis of Assisi in Cerveteri, 27 miles north-west of Rome. Now, imagine if the Punjab police had gotten into action to push back those wanting to do kar sewa, what kind of noise the SGPC and many in the community would have made?
Just imagine what kind of noise a lot of nationalist propagandist state has been making about a small group of women sitting at Shaheen Bagh while observing all the precautions in view of the advisories regarding coronavirus outbreak?
But how can the Amarinder Singh government take any action against those posing such blatant threat to public safety and public health?
Captain Amarinder Singh himself is leading a government which, in collaboration with a leading news channel, plans to celebrate its three years in power with a massive show at a five star hotel in Chandigarh.
As for the SGPC, the manager of the shrine, told Punjab Today on March 18 that the management had postponed the kar sewa
"par sangat apni marzi nal laggi hoyee hai ate hun sadi koyee zimmewari nahi hai
." "(The sangat is doing kar sewa of its own accord and we have no further responsibility to bear.)"
And you thought that the religion and its practice over the years at such an important shrine would have instilled a love for the humanity and a sense of sarbat da bhala in the management at least!
In Malaysia, about two-thirds of the country’s 673 confirmed infections have been linked to an Islamic conference attended by about 16,000 people late last month at a mosque near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
In Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, the top Muslim body issued a fatwa stating that people should not attend Friday prayers if they live in an area which has a "high or very high transmission potential.”
Across Europe and the US, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples have suspended public events at their own initiative. Many are livestreaming services and setting up WhatsApp groups of worshippers.
The Muslim Council of Britain has urged mosques in the UK to suspend all congregational activity, including Friday prayers.
But for some reason, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, often making news for his education, insisted till the very end that the government of India should not shut down the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, even though Giani Harpreet Singh's expertise on the coronavirus family of the vector is not so well known.
Amarinder Singh is on the right side of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, so the Centre has little interest in calling his bluff by questioning why the CM is keen on attending a gathering of hundreds to hail his government, but the BJP will do all it can to give a bad name to the Shaheen Bagh protestors, a political line in which Arvind Kejriwal is also aligned with the saffron party.
Who is really worried about the questions that your little children are asking, or your worries about whether the sanitizer will outlast the outbreak or if the vaccine would come into the market by the time your daughter was planning to start her family?
Clearly, the politicians have given up on you. It is a party in the times of coronavirus, the strange kind of political love for power in the time of cholera, but you haven't been invited to the party.
So please wash your hands of this entire business of Congress-Akali Dal-BJP-Aam Aadmi Party politics, and do so for much longer than 20 seconds. Its the kind of coronavirus that only you can stop, by questioning their politics.
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