Respected Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale,
Uddhav, I commend you and your team on your order of 4 April 2021, under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It is a balanced and much required intervention that I am hopeful will result in a decline in the spread of Covid-19 in Mumbai.
In this context, I write to you on a matter of grave concern. This morning when I was walking outside Kamla Nehru Park, Hanging Gardens, Malabar Hill, I saw a group of eight persons doing yoga and exercises on the footpath just outside the garden. Not one of them was wearing a mask. When I politely asked them to wear a mask, they became aggressive and combative and told me to stay at home if I was concerned about Covid. This is not the first time I have received such a hostile reaction. I am sorry to say that this is the standard response I get from educated, wealthy persons who are maskless on Malabar Hill.
Walkers and joggers, whom I have asked to wear a mask in public, say they fear that the mask will suffocate them. According to the South African Journal of Sports Medicine and the USA National Center for Biotechnology Information, (NCBI), it is most definitely possible to run and exercise with a mask. They recommend a breathable, clean double layered cloth mask. For those who are uncomfortable with a mask, they have the option of exercising at home for the next three weeks or for the duration that wearing masks in public places is mandatory.
Sirs, your and Maharashtra’s best efforts will be compromised if individuals selectively choose not to wear masks, and flout rules as per their preference. I therefore suggest that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Mumbai Police create a website where people can upload the exact location and photographs of those who are not wearing masks in public places, or are in breach of Section 144 or the Maharashtra government’s Order No: DMU/2020/CR. 92/DisM-1, dated 4 April 2021.
I suggest that there be live monitoring of this website, and that the local police be sent immediately to take the strictest action, under the law, against violators of the Order. I believe that if strict punitive action were taken immediately, and publicised, it would act as a deterrent for flagrant violation of the law, and we will have higher compliance and a better chance of bringing Covid-19 under control in Mumbai.
Sirs, I know that you Uddhav Thackeray and your administration, and Hemant Nagrale you and the Mumbai Police, are over-extending yourselves and doing your best for us, the citizens of Mumbai. I think it is time we step up and support you, and one way is by being your eyes and ears on the ground. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to keep our city safe and healthy.
Kavita Vinod Khanna
The author is a public policy influencer who graduated from London School of Economics. Kavita worked with PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s office for three years on the issue of labour law reform, and recently served a term on the National Executive of the BJP. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant Dixit)