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The Chief Minister is proactive in taking decisions and promoting timely and routine checks on the situation and its residents.

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IPRI # 58, 21 April 2020

COVID-19 and the Indian States
New Delhi as Hotspot: Border Sealing, Curbing Fake News, Proactive leadership

  Niharika Sharma


India reports over 6000 cases of the infectious disease, caused by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The disease causes a respiratory illness with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. The disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. The capital of India, Delhi reports the fourth most affected cases by COVID-19 in the country. The state is a hub for international travel and layovers apart from being engrossed by political tiffs with the Centre.

Amidst a surge in fresh cases, the Delhi government notified for a lockdown on 23 March till 31 March. The Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal was proactively interacting with the public while reassuring them about their safety. The inter-state borders shared with neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were sealed. The international air travel was completely shut down tagging along domestic travels too. The government was quick to order six hospitals to start collecting coronavirus samples with immediate effect. The hospitals are Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, Deendayal Upadhyay Hospital, Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, and Janakpuri Super Speciality Hospital. 

According to reliable news sources, on 5 March, the government announced that all primary schools across Delhi would be shut until 31 March as a precaution. While on 12 March, the Chief Minister announced that all schools, colleges and cinema halls in New Delhi would be closed till the end of March and all public places disinfected as a precautionary measure. IndiaTVnews reported on 19 March about the closure of all restaurants as notified by the government. The ban is on eating in restaurants but food delivery will continue. The Chief Minister also said that 20 or more people will not be allowed to unite anywhere in the state. By 20 March, the Delhi government announced that all malls in Delhi will close with only vegetable, grocery and medicine shops remaining open. The Chief Minister increased the free ration from 5 kilograms to 7.5 kilograms for the 7.2 million people who are dependent on the ration scheme. 

The movement of the general public was restricted to the procurement of essential commodities and services only; allowed on a self-certification basis. The usage of vehicles was curtailed to a bare minimum. The officials are lodging FIRs against individuals violating the lockdown norms. For instance, NDTV reported on 26 March, Delhi police arresting a 40-year-old man and seizing his scooty for allegedly calling a northeastern woman "coronavirus" and spitting paan at her. On the other hand, there are numerous examples of individuals showing support for the lockdown by staying at their homes. 

A 24*7 control room was set up immediately at the Office of Divisional Commissioner, GNCTD and also at all the offices of District Magistrates of GNCTD. According to the official statement, an officer of the rank of ACP shall be available at all control rooms at all times to ensure proper liaison with the offices of District Magistrates on a real-time basis. 
The residents of Delhi stranded outside the borders for some reason are encouraged to enter the state on the production of a valid ID or residential proof. The Delhi government also partnered with the Uttar Pradesh government in sponsoring the arrangement of buses at Delhi's Anand Vihar bus station to take the migrants back to their villages. Large crowds gathered at the bus station awaiting buses. The central government issued a press statement stating that it had asked state governments to set up immediate relief camps for the migrant workers returning to their native states. On 29 March, the government issued sweeping orders directing that the landlords should not demand rent during the period of the lockdown and that employers should pay wages without deduction. The people that violated the lockdown were to be sent to government-run quarantine facilities for 14 days.

The government was also quick to defuse the fake news bombs being circulated on various social media platforms by timely issuing important notices, spreading awareness through official handles of the Delhi government on social media, issuing clarifications statements after hearing any false news that the people come across, and much more. 

Delhi is presently a centre for riots and rallies against the Citizen Amendment Act. Even so, the Delhi government is well-coordinated with the Centre and other state governments. The Chief Minister is proactive in taking decisions and promoting timely and routine checks on the situation and its residents. The fight against this deadly virus is long and difficult but it has not stopped the Delhi government and the residents to work together keeping aside their differences focused on one goal - Defeat Coronavirus!

Niharika Sharma is a PhD scholar at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru. 
 


As of 22 April, 2020 India crossed the 20,000 mark in its total number of coronavirus affected cases with 645 deaths. The country heads to complete a month of complete lockdown and in this, while few states have been able to manage the health crisis, most are yet to recuperate. The International Peace Research Initiative (IPRI) at NIAS takes a critical look at the response readiness, mitigation abilities, societal perception and role of media in the different federal states in India while combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IPRI Series on “COVID-19 and Indian States” brings out the comparative narration and the larger picture on how India is addressing the pandemic. This initiative is undertaken by the IPRI in collaboration with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS). The KAS-India Office is one of the principal partners of the IPRI and the IPRI network.

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