Lockdown to combat coronavirus: A necessary measure
Nepal is lurching from crisis to crisis, albeit political in nature, but with God’s grace, she has been successful in overcoming them all.
Sovereign citizens have experience of observing tough times during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed more than 13,000 lives. Still, we succeeded to get out of the grief and pain. Like all other tough times the country has countenanced, we shall manage to overcome the current Coronavirus pandemic.
Under the decree of the government of Nepal, lockdown has been imposed for a week, beginning from Tuesday as a precautionary measure. People are advised to stay at home so that the spread and contamination of virus could be curbed. The government has invoked Infectious Disease Act, 1964 to impose lockdown for a week to combat the possible outbreak of Covid-19 infection in the country. Issuing a notification on Monday, the government urged the people to stay home and not come out on the streets, except for urgent matters, such as medical urgency.
Domestic flights have been cancelled, vehicular movements have been banned and employees have been granted leave. The government has also clarified that the outliers would be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be more than one month; and/or also liable to fine of Rs 100 (Section 3). The Chief District Officer (i.e., executive Magistrate) has been empowered to implement the Act, 1964 (Section 4).
The Act, 1964 is home to as many as five Sections that merited enactment in then king Mahendra’s regime. Section 2 of the Act, 1964 confers a blanket power on the government to apply all necessary measures to combat with infectious diseases. It allows the government officials so empowered to issue any form of orders, whichever required, to control or abate the outbreak of infections. The officials are permitted to check or inspect any person, pedestrian, goods, vehicles or any if they have suspicion that the person or goods may carry infections.
Despite all this, the Act, 2020 BS (1964) nowhere prescribes welfare functions. The legislation does not necessarily oblige the government to ensure arrangement for food or other essential goods or services to its citizens.
Who will be hit hard during this lockdown? The hardest hit will be daily wage earners in urban and rural areas. They are the persons who deserve state’s support on immediate basis. The three tiers of government (i.e., central, provincial and local) should not escape from their responsibility to provide essential goods and services to the citizens. This is the opportune time for the instruments of the state to win the hearts and minds of the people.
Amid this Corona-lockdown, the shopkeepers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers have hoarded food, LPG Gas, mobile recharge cards among others. In Janakpurdham, the retailers and shopkeepers have hiked the price of essential commodities. They are taking this lockdown as an opportunity to earn as much they can.
The Constitution in its Article 48 enlists fundamental duties to be observed by every citizen. Acclaimed jurist Hohfeld argues that rights and duties are jural correlatives. He believes that it is unjust for a person to claim rights unless he fulfils his duties. It becomes the sovereign duty of every citizen to practise social distancing in a bid to curtail the outbreak of Covid-19.
However, people in Janakpur are not taking lockdown seriously. People are roaming on the streets for no good reason. Youths are playing cricket in 12-Bigha, an open space, morning and evening time as usual.
It would be unjust to claim right to move, which is envisaged under Article 17, in this virus-lockdown, which is a form of emergency. It’s the time to observe the duty. It’s time to stay under self-quarantine and help the state prevent the outbreak of Covid-19.
In India, police is found Lathicharging those roaming on roads for no reason amid Coronavirus lockdown. It’s high time we too adopt and implement the same practice to tame those who are untameable. Lathicharge for public good could in no way be interpreted as violation of human rights. After all, it’s time to save humans first from the deadly Corona; we cannot think of rights unless we have humans to claim it for.
We must not spend our energy and focus on criticism and blame games. We were together during all the tough times; we should take a pledge to overcome this deadly epidemic. The only need of hour is to go for self-quarantine to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
The fight against Corona is akin to wartime situations. But, it’s a different kind of war where enemies are not visible with naked eyes. The health professionals and doctors are tirelessly engaged in saving the lives. They are in the hospitals, that is out of their homes, for us and we have to stay at our homes to prevent the spread of Corona.
As per media reports, the world has witnessed 421,792 infected patients, and 18,882 deaths till date. Of them, the number of infected patients stands at 562 and death toll reaches 11 in India. We don’t deserve to face the same fate.
We have to bear in mind that in an epidemic-like situation, when transmission happens rapidly, it becomes an uphill task for the state to overcome it in a given time frame. Collectively can we help the state the state to break the chain of transmission by adopting strategies like self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine procedures.
Published on 25 March 2020