Coronavirus and the villages

Updated 29 Jul 2020

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A RURAL area of Karachi depicts how people subsist in these thatched houses. — White Star
A RURAL area of Karachi depicts how people subsist in these thatched houses. — White Star

KARACHI: Make no mistake: the coronavirus pandemic is endangering our lives with the kind of rapidity that can only be checked by keeping away from it, that is, by maintaining physical distance from one another. Whoever is in denial, by now, must’ve cottoned on to the fact that the virus is life-threatening and can spread at a breakneck speed. There is no use burying one’s head in the sand.

But then there are quite a few mixed signals coming from all sorts of places responsible to govern the country and give the public relief in difficult circumstances. The federal-Sindh government spat is doing no good either. Thankfully, for the past few weeks the ping pong verbal battles between the ministers of the two has lessened. And yet, there’s more that needs to be examined very carefully.

There are quite a few mixed signals coming from all sorts of places responsible to govern the country

First and foremost, the element of ‘fear’ needs to be eradicated as soon as possible. If social media is anything to go by, then it’s troublesome to know that people are afraid to go to hospitals to get tested, leave alone for treatment. All sorts of reports, many could be false, coming out of hospitals making one think twice to get oneself checked in. There have been, allegedly, instances where once in, hospital patients have found it extremely hard to walk out. The citizens need to be told that it’s a perfectly treatable disease, period. There have also been echoes of certain facilities announcing ‘packages’ for the corona patients. This is downright inhuman. Even the amount spent on getting tested is not affordable to a large chunk of the population.

The Sindh government’s representatives have been updating on the situation on a regular basis. It’s praiseworthy. However, it’s time their briefings stopped carrying the ‘we told you so’ ring to them. If a mistake has been made from any group in power, and it could be a costly one, you can’t turn back the clock. It’s still your duty to keep coming up with plans and programmes to pull people out of their misery.

Another issue that must be immediately addressed is that with whatever briefings we’ve been listening to, it appears that the virus has mostly hit the cities of the province. Surely, it can’t be an urban problem. There are dozens of cities in the province. What is the mechanism to check the scale of havoc the disease has wreaked in the smaller cities?

Finally, what about the villages? There are thousands of regularised, or otherwise, villages in Pakistan, and the number of villages in Sindh must also be in their thousands. Has anyone made an effort to go there or inquire through relevant offices the extent of suffering of the people? When debates on matters of national interest begin and occupy the top rung of our priority ladder, we conveniently tend to overlook a huge part of our population that keeps our rural areas green, and gives us a nonstop supply of our staple food. So what’s happening there?

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2020