Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa clarified Thursday night that there is no ban on flights and trains to the state, a day after after his government banned flights from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, following a spike in Covid-19 cases. But he has now requested the Centre to restrict the number of flights from high-risk states. Haryana and UP have sealed borders with Delhi, restricting movement of people to curb virus spread.
ThePrint asks: Inter-state movement curbs: Are Indian states being paranoid or practical during Covid?
States can’t afford to underestimate infection spread. They need to take necessary precautions
BJP leader and Senior Advocate, Karnataka High Court
In Karnataka, a majority of Covid cases that have come via inter-state travel are among migrants from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu Rajasthan. Karnataka now faces the burden of mass community infections. It is unjust and puts the state onto a dangerous path.
It is the fact that migrants returning to native places have allowed the virus to reach nooks and crannies of the country previously untouched. Hospitals are now being filled with migrants carrying Covid from one state to another, and quarantining them comes with an added cost. Not to mention, quarantining lakhs of migrants actually creates greater risk of a spread of infection as you cannot always assign each person an individual room. Therefore, allowing inter-state travel on a mass-scale may infringe upon how a particular state must act in the interest of its own people.
I think the Karnataka government’s resistance to inter-state travel is more than justified as it is ultimately trying to avert cluster infections. If this was not a priority, inter-state travel could become too relaxed and even give the impression to the general public that the worst is over when a second or third Covid wave is in fact very likely.
States cannot afford to underestimate the spread of infection. They each need to take necessary precautions as after all, it is they who are fighting on the frontlines of the Covid crisis.
States are acting paranoid, but they have their reasons. They are being practical
Former joint commissioner of police, New Delhi
Indian states are acting paranoid on the issue of inter-state travel, but it comes from a place of practicality. If we look at the US, the relative lack of government intervention has resulted in a surge of Covid cases and deaths. That said, India’s harsh measures have been executed with immense unpreparedness on the part of health infrastructure and state administration. This unpreparedness has, in some states, aggravated the Covid challenge, and caused misery and loss of livelihood for the poorer classes.
The mishandling of the migrant worker crisis and the lack of preparedness in accounting for the daily wager was the first sign of paranoia and unpreparedness of the Modi government and states. When domestic air travel resumed Monday, the cancellation of flights was the next sign. I will also say, however, that Indians need to imbibe social distancing as a way of life, especially when it comes to inter-state travel. They need to be wise and cautious enough on their own as the lockdown eases, and inter-state travel returns to being a norm. Due to the lack of preparedness among state authorities, it is now difficult to say whether India’s lockdown was helpful at all.
Not practical to have inter-state travel curbs. We must accept that the virus is here to stay
Director, Business Development, Thumby Aviation
It’s not practical to have such curbs on inter-state travel because of a few reasons. First, pilots coming from other cities have to be quarantined once they enter a new state, which delays business. Second, we are ignoring how airports have ramped up safety protocols from masks to gloves to sanitization, before and after a flight operation, which are also major added costs. Not to mention, flights are only keeping to 30 per cent of their regular schedules between destinations, which means much less passengers. The airline industry is already flying at a loss, but is still taking the necessary extra safety precautions.
There needs to be more trust in the aviation industry and also an acceptance that the virus is not going to disappear. Our economy must adapt. Yes, the return of migrants via domestic travel can lead to a spike in cases in different states, at least it is far more easier for authorities to track the infection and control it with the simple knowledge of knowing the route of the infected passenger. Contact tracing is more effective that way. State governments have every reason to be anxious about inter-state travel bringing in new infections, but in a way, a known devil is better than an unknown devil.
States should ensure that the traveler is not sick at the time of journey
Dr. T Jacob John
Former head, ICMR in Virology
Each state taking its own decision regarding inter-state travel is not a good precedent that we are setting. Are these part of disaster management or epidemic control laws? Will this precedent be used for other reasons in future too?
Have states been given legal powers to prevent people traveling or to force them into quarantine even when they have no fever or cough? Are we not one country in which free travel must be allowed?
If state A is affected by a contagious disease and state B is totally free of the infection, there is some justification of a level of border control with pre-described norms and screening procedures. Not for curbing entry of healthy, uninfected people. The aim should be to ensure that the traveler is not sick at the time of travel. The person can be monitored by a mutually agreed protocol.
When both states, A and B, have coronavirus infection, what is the purpose of curbs? When the governments say don’t panic, and they themselves show panic, we know that their understanding of the infection dynamics is low.
This is a pandemic; in India it is a country-wide epidemic. The lack of a national level policy on all relevant issues, lack of detailed plans of action, and lack of adherence to human rights to lives, livelihood, and healthcare are equally detrimental as the epidemic itself.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint
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