From the time the PM announced a nation-wide lockdown due to threat of Covid-19, the people of J&K are religiously following the health advisories and other directions of the government. But a few incidents of non-cooperation have come into light over the last few days. Their cause needs to be understood in the right perspective and dealt with accordingly. Incidents like suspected persons put into quarantine fleeing after breaking doors and window panes of hospitals, or people not maintaining social distances at banks and shops, as also the incident of a Tabeegi Jamaat preacher using the pulpit of a mosque to exhort his followers to ignore health warnings &and to defy directives of the state. All such incidents reflect that there is a “Deficient Threat Perception”, meaning that the seriousness of the threat has not been realised by some people.
The government machinery employed to communicate the risk of Covid-19 has reached only the upper and middle class, mostly in urban areas. The government’s efforts alone will not suffice and this is where “Community Engagement” can play a pivotal role. This can be done by engaging with the local panchayats, civil societies, disseminating publicity material in vernacular languages, and asking community stalwarts who are perceived as impartial non-state agents to take up the cause.
Another issue is of daily-wage workers who are left without livelihood. Here the role of Baitul-maals and other charity foundations and NGOs comes into play. People should make those institutions stronger by donating more to them so they don’t fall short of money.
None of us knows when the lockdown will end. It is going to test the patience of people. To ensure that they are able to coordinate with the government, community engagement is important. We should be able to convince the lower strata of society but for that we need to know their mindset as they don’t have enough education. For all this we need people who are trustworthy and enjoy the community’s confidence. Such people can effectively communicate the threat of the virus, advise the right practices, and also combat the problem of rumours and social stigma. Urgent reinforcing of community engagement activities will largely decide the trajectory that Covid-19 takes.
The writer is associated with the J&K RTI Movement