It is an established fact that centralized-AC (air-conditioner) is one of the important cause behind the spread of corona virus. The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has sometimes back confirmed this fact after a study. China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had also come to this conclusion.
According to Dr Soumik Goswami, endocrinologist from Kolkata, “being in an environment with centralized-AC is not safe at all at this given point.” He said that the stand-alone AC used in homes is safe. But if the suspected or infected person is kept in quarantine in a room it is preferable to keep the person in a well-ventilated room and not use an air-conditioner. He said so seven months back at the start of the spread of the pandemic.
Yet no one is paying heed to this reality. Herein lies the success of capitalism. This is one reason why, unlike tuberculosis (which takes about 1,000 lives daily), COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the well-off persons more than the poor lot. Even doctors are more prone to it.
Take the example of poorest state of India, Bihar, where Assembly elections were held recently. Two ministers of the Nitish Kumar government died within a week just two months back. This is not to speak of the death of ailing and old leaders like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh on September 13 and Ram Vilas Paswan on October 8.
In contrast to the much more developed and affluent places like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Indore, Jaipur, Bhopal etc., Bihar saw the largest number of gatherings in the last one and a half months. No, I am not just talking about Dhanteras, Diwali and Chhath gatherings alone. The state saw not less than 1,000 big and small election rallies in each and every nooks and corners. In many of them 30,000-50,000 people had gathered. The leader of opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, alone addressed 251 such public meetings between Oct 15 and Nov 5. So, on an average he addressed 12-13 gatherings daily.
When some TV journalists, especially from Delhi, tried to caution the people who were not maintaining social distancing and not wearing mask the crowd would respond: there is no corona in Bihar.
Chhath being the biggest festival of Bihar, attracted much larger crowd on the ghats than anywhere else in the country.
Notwithstanding the above facts the media is not reporting of post-Diwali spurt in corona virus cases in Bihar. It is not that corona had not affected the state. A large number of deaths were reported in summer and early monsoon months.
Pitiable Response of Governments
If we aggravated the corona virus case in March by imposing lockdown in a haphazard manner, the response of the state governments—cutting across the party lines—is simply pitiable. They are just groping in the dark by imposing night curfews and unleashing police, health department officials and civil defence volunteers on the streets to impose fines on anyone removing mask even for a minute.
The tragedy is that nobody is questioning this absurdity when many doctors had advised against wearing of mask for too long a period. This is an unimplementable order, especially when the rulers have freedom to do whatever they want—address election rallies, assemble in Ayodhya or Akshardham Temple or any other place of congregations.
Our ruling elite has become so myopic that they cannot see beyond what has been taught to them. It would sound ridiculous, nevertheless true that the Bihar government too has suddenly been reminded about imposing fine for not wearing the mask. What a double-standard!
Ready To Pay Fine
The people, especially in Delhi, are openly saying that they are ready to pay fine rather than wear mask on the order of the clueless governments.
What our political masters perhaps do not understand is that it is post-Diwali marriage season and sudden imposition of night—and in some cases even day—curfews have compelled people to cancel, postpone or re-schedule thousands of weddings. Putting curb on the attendance in marriages is appreciable.
People are rushing to market for marriage-related purchases and the government will have to understand this fact. After all they had agreed to postpone marriages in the last season, that is in summer. How long will they continue to put it off?
No doubt corona virus has thrown up a big challenge both before the public and the government—be it of any party. But it seems that the capitalist and their agents in the media, have succeeded in their own design. Millions of rupees have been minted in the name of selling masks and sanitizers. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan tried to be too clever by half. He undertook the campaign to distribute masks. In the process the social distancing rule was violated and our ladies and gentlemen in the media too were among the culprits.
Our rulers need to be told loudly and clearly that more than going to public without mask it is the centralised AC which is wreaking havoc. We have no programme of scrapping all these ACs from government buildings, malls, under-ground markets etc. We are not allowing local passenger trains from running but the AC expresses have been running for the last several months.
When are we going to advise the people to take out ACs from places where there are big gatherings and make the structure more airy. Purchase of ventilators is certainly essential, but no less important is the need of proper ventilation. But mind it the capitalist lobby would not allow this as many firms dealing in ACs will have to close down their establishments.
( Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna)