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An Open Letter To Uddhav Thackeray CM Of Maharashtra

S Yesudas, Co-founder, Y&A Transformation, has written an open letter to Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister of Maharashtra in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the effect it has had on the individual.

Photo Credit : ANI

Dear Sir, 

Hope this letter finds you in the best of health and spirits.  I’m writing to you as a concerned common citizen. 

I understand that Covid-19 is a potential national disaster and the Bureaucracy, Executive and the Citizens need to work with the same agenda to arrest it and possibly avert it.  I have been observing the increase in the number of infected cases in the state with bated breath. I have also been studying what some other states like Kerala are doing.  While I am presuming Maharashtra is also fully prepared to deal with it, the sentiments some of my social media posts evoked made me pen this down.  Perhaps the citizens are not fully aware of the measures being taken by the administration.  

My daughter who is in studying in Bangalore returned to Mumbai on 15th, owing to closure of her university and hostel.  I was surprised to know passengers including many foreign nationals are walking out of the Mumbai airport freely with not even a thermal scanning. The picture below is what I personally saw that same night at 10.30.  The people, presumably responsible for the same, didn’t want me to take this picture.  On my enquiry I was told they had the requisite permissions to shoot.   I called 100, the police helpline, which kept ringing without an answer.  But got a return call few minutes later.  I explained the situation to them.  The lady on the other side promised to send a police party to the venue.  Next morning I saw the news that all shooting will be cancelled from 19th.  On a lighter note, I don’t know if we have a plan to make the virus wait till 19th since some businesses need to be supported.   I’ve also read the news about how people in the building in Tilak Nagar, Chembur, where a case was reported, are being abandoned even by the neighboring societies.  I see no police force in crowded places, I see no special BMC sanitization drives.  I see no local elected representatives visiting building societies/talking to people. I do see billboards asking people not to panic. 

To add to it, the condition of the Govt hospitals in Mumbai are nothing to write home about.  I only hope people who have to be admitted in these hospitals do not return with other infections, which also I presume has been taken care of.  But the question is what if the current facility becomes inadequate?  The private hospitals were to be asked to prepare isolation wards. But I believe they are not even attending to patients with a common cold now. 

There’s some amount of panic in the air, which is natural. Since I think what will work in such scenarios is action on the ground, may I suggest some simple steps? I’m focusing on Mumbai, but same can be done across Maharashtra: 

  1. I don’t know if it is do with the awareness or ignorance. Although I try and talk to as many as possible, some serious awareness building on dos and don’ts, perhaps even some fear is needed. This morning saw an auto mechanic, surrounded by couple of others, picking up a plastic pouch from very dirty ground and opening it with his teeth.  Neither do I know how many people realize that the virus can spread from the surface and can even come in through milk packets, doorbells, car doors, shop counters, fruits from open carts, currency, auto/taxi, shoes etc and therefore take adequate care! Grounds-up awareness building is the need..

  1. What should people do in case of any of the symptoms? Should they isolate themselves, call the helpline? Who will decide that? What are the symptoms from day 0 to day 10? Does everyone need to go and get it tested, particularly when the country has only 150 K test kits?  If isolation is recommended, how will someone who is staying in a home which is a single room with 10 others (a reality of Mumbai) isolate himself/herself?  Also presuming the entire family needs to be isolated, will the Govt make any provisions for them?  Who will monitor them during the period of isolation? If someone feels he/she came in contact with someone coughing/sneezing what should that person do? Should the individual who was coughing also need to be guided?  These are simple questions which need to be clarified.  We cannot presume people have all the answers.  I have been talking to house helps, auto drivers etc. While they all knew about the virus, none seemed to have any clear idea on what they should do.  Perhaps guidelines, keeping in mind the structure of the society, is what’s needed, in addition to some uniform ones for all. 

  1. Scan airline passengers and recommend actions.  Track people where isolation is recommended. 

  1. Create a BMC task force that will sanitize the city, twice daily.  Provide them with protective uniforms. Employ technology like robots, drones when needed. 

  1. Make it mandatory for the intercity bus operators, cabs etc, to disinfect their vehicles frequently. Impose a heavy fine if they don’t.  They must carry awareness notices for passengers.  They must all carry enough sanitizers. Also Make mandatory hand washing stops.  Set up such provisions.  Create A helpline for people to complain. 

  1. Rush hour travelling to be avoided at all cost. Make it mandatory for businesses to offer work from home or flexi office hours for critical staff.  Impose a fine on those who do not obey. Create awareness of Dos and Don’ts for those who are using trains, in the trains itself. 

  1. Educational institutions/hostels to be shut and online teaching to be adopted.  Let the App based online teaching platforms help institutions in a collaborative manner wherever there’s a criticality in covering up portions.  Let even competing businesses come together.  Issue such guidelines 

  1. Disallow cinema shootings, political rallies/functions and anything which attracts crowds. 

  1. Ban entry into all public/tourist attractions; art galleries, central libraries, beaches, aquarium, zoo, night clubs etc.  Malls/cinemas are already shut I believe. 

  2. There’s panic grocery purchase. Some of the shops are infested with people.  This could be a big danger.  Can you regulate this in some way, while ensuring people also get their grocery? 

  1. Issue notices to places of worship to avoid mass gathering, define mass, perhaps less than 10? 

  1. While it must mean businesses and there are even people who will capitalize the opportunity to black market sanitizers and masks, we will also have people like Thasleem and Nadheem owners of Cochin Surgicals, who have bought masks at Rs.10 in wholesale and sold at Rs. 2 to the neediest.  Let the stories of business owners who are even helping curb crowd formation although it may affect their business temporarily, be known in the public domain.  

  1. Particularly when masks are in short supply, should normal people be discouraged from unnecessary purchasing them?  Should the chemists sensitize citizens? 

  1. Make the local elected representatives responsible for working within his/her constituency to make that constituency the best. They need to work with the building societies and specific local areas and the central leadership must monitor their performance and even publicize their genuine efforts, to inspire others.   They in turn can create citizen volunteers within residential societies who will work with them. 

  1. Rather than making people in building societies suffer where some people test positive (e.g. Tilak Nagar, Chembur, building) let’s ensure there’s provision to isolate people and the critically needed ones are tested? So that the entire building doesn’t become “bhoot bungalow”   Create a system to monitor those who are isolated.  

  1. Work with the affected to understand their journeys and publicize the maps for those who could potentially have been on the vicinities to isolate themselves and go in for tests if symptoms persists. 

  1. Ensure the hospitals are better prepared.  Get the private hospitals to create isolation facilities.  

  1. Voluntary testing:  The moment a person is asked is to go to the “Covid Clinic” of Kasturba for the test, it will be a human tendency to postpone the decision, which could lead to other complications.  Can there be other testing facilities? With clear guidelines on who needs to go for testing 

  1. Last but not the least, bring in a stringent law to punish irresponsible people who are causing danger to others by escaping from isolation.

To sum up, I would only say that the Administration has the potential to deal with this crisis in human way and make Maharashtra a state which the world will look at, as far as its efforts to fight Covid-19 is concerned.  We promise to work with your team, obey your orders and even become your volunteers, sir. 

In the critical phase of community spread that our country is sitting at, it is imperative to do foresight planning preparing for the worst.  Unlike the other countries, we shouldn’t have a stressed medical community that will be treating patients on the walkways of hospitals and they will then be compelled to take calls, understandably so, on who to save and who to let die. 

Jai Hind!

S Yesudas

A concerned Indian citizen

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