‘Social distancing’ itself is another epidemic- ‘Untouchability’

Instead of social distancing we should use the term ‘Physical Distancing’ as social distancing itself is a discriminatory term. World Health Organisation is also not using the term social distancing.

The famous dialogue from the Hindi movie ‘Yashwant’ which read as “Ek machhar aadmi ko hizda bana deta hai (a mosquito can cripple the universe) would come to our minds if we reflect on the current situation. A micro virus on the other hand, is causing larger issues like ceasing cities, big or small, developed or under-developed and hence hampering the social and business activities. One could even say it’s the nature’s way of teaching a lesson to human beings for their unfriendly and hostile behaviour towards nature. Nature, from time to time, inflicts its own methods resulting in desolation amongst human society as well as damages to the ecosystem, to awaken human beings to be more careful towards Nature and its ecosystem.  Infectious diseases like SARS, MERS and now Novel Corona virus Disease, also refers as to COVID-19, are few examples.

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) has brought the human race around the world on its knees.  COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire and scientists’ community across the world is working hard to find a vaccine to save the vulnerable world population. However, human clinical trials are underway to find the vaccine yet it will take almost one year before the ‘clinically proven’ vaccine is available for the living souls. Non-availability of vaccines made the matter worse for the human race as they are literally not aware of how to grapple this menace. The fight with the invisible COVID-19 is getting challenging day by day as the death toll is increasing by each passing day.

Scientists are still not aware of the most dangerous situation of Coronavirus, which is a great concern for each nation across the globe, as authorities are not even able to trace the source of infection amongst infected cases. There is a complete lockdown in many countries in the world. With no business/economic activities thereby forced lakhs of people to stay home.

Poor people are the worst hit of this pandemic inching closer towards starvation. Governments across the world have to fight on two inevitable counts – to stop pandemic and to stabilize the economy. Authorities including scientists and medical fraternity have advised everyone to remain at home and if required in isolation too in case there are any early symptoms of infection. This situation has segregated people even from their near and dears. Countries like India, where the pandemic put its foot down late compared to many countries, have learned a lot from other Countries how to control the lethal effect of this pandemic.  Lockdown with physical distancing appeared to be the best option to restrict the consequences of COVID-19. 

It seems COVID-19 has catapulted us back to the Stone Age when the human race lived as per their need unlike today. Humans are an integral and most vital part of Mother Nature. Both complement each other. Mother Nature is not only a friend of humans but has ever been a Guiding Teacher. Nature has always been contributing to the development of the ‘human environment’ and for human beings. So far, whatever the human civilization has achieved is the result of learning from the Nature. 

However, the self-centered and egoistic humans act against the Nature to satisfy their lustful and ill-fated ambitions as their longings for comforts have turned into filthy greed. The greed combined with arrogance exploited the Nature as per his whim and fancies. Today the biggest enemy of the Nature is humans who continue to deplete natural resources by encroaching upon natural habitats, deforestation, extracting hills and mountains, polluting the sea and moving or stopping the natural flow of rivers.  COVID-19 has shown that humans are not strong enough to take Nature head-on.  Their money and other resources are insignificant.  Thus, the wise use of natural resources is imperative to clean up natural environments.   

In the current situation, there are many questions in the minds of scientific/medical communities as well as ordinary people. How COVID-19 broke out; which nation is responsible for spreading it; is it the consequence of trade war or who is the economic superpower etc. Allegations and counter-allegations with many theories have started and will continue in the future too.  The world will never get answers to these questions.  However, there is no denying that COVID-19 has inflicted irreparable losses by endangering the lives of lakhs of people around the world.

As is the saying that ‘Every Coin has Two Sides’, World too has witnessed positive aspects of massive lockdown. Nature is rejuvenating itself. One of the demons created by human beings is ‘Pollution’, which is drastically reduced.  The current generation can see the blue sky during daylight, twinkling stars-a rarity these days during night, Rivers are regaining their natural flow, air quality has increased significantly. What is noticeable that in India successive governments have incurred hundreds of crores of rupees to clean rivers without any positive result?  However, rivers are cleaning themselves in a natural way without a single penny being incurred. The animals, birds, trees, flowers now can feel that Mother Earth also belongs to them.

COVID-19, in a symbolic manner, has done something which none of the governments have been able to do so far on ‘Equality’, though dreadful for humanity. Pandemic is infecting each one without any favour whoever exposes to COVID-19. Everyone is vulnerable, whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, black or white, leader or ordinary people, and facing the fury of the pandemic.  However, affluent people still manage such catastrophes with their money or access to better medical facilities. Unfortunately, it is not only human societies that exploit poor people but also Nature makes the poor people pay heavily as compared to affluent people. Poor people are more susceptible to the natural calamities or outbreak of an epidemic.  There are more casualties amongst the poor compared to the rich.  Poor people strive hard for their livelihood, as the majority of them are daily earners and remain on the misery of the governments and in difficult time on charitable organizations for their day-to-day need. 

Poor people, the majority of them are daily earners and work in the unorganized sectors, are facing the deadly blow in India too.  To contain the pandemic, the Government of India announced lockdown across the country that has aggravated the plight of the poor.  Due to lockdown, there is no work for them; on the other hand, they are unable to leave for their homes in other states. They are stranded in one state and their family is in another state, which agonized them. Therefore, it transpires that whether it is a pandemic like Corona, SARS, MERS or natural calamities like drought, flood, famine, cyclones, etc. poor people always suffer and succumb easily. 

‘Social Distancing’ is found to be one of the effective tools to restrict COVID-19. It is very important to maintain distance from the infected person because medically there is no approved treatment yet.  Since it may still take time to invent a clinically proven vaccine, we must keep a distance from the infected person to save ourselves as well as help to prevent its community spread.  As far as Social Distancing is concerned, I personally feel instead of social distancing we should use the term ‘Physical Distancing’ as social distancing itself is a discriminatory term. World Health Organisation is also not using the term social distancing. To restrict COVID-19 ‘physical distancing’ is inevitable but social cohesiveness is mandatory to bring unity in the society. 

Social distancing is one of the oldest contagious diseases in India, which plagued the society since Vedic Varnashrma system, a sickening caste-based system.  Social distancing is the root cause of another human-made epidemic called ‘Untouchability’ in Indian society. Social and religious chameleons nefariously designed to propagate untouchability as religious regeneration in the name of cultural and religious traditions. They, along with the political class, continued to oppose vehemently the concept of social equality and encouraged to discriminate with people based on caste and religion.

It is heartening that all the governments, be it the Central government or the State governments, are doing incredible work and taking all necessary steps to fight against COVID-19. Barring few senseless people, everyone as a responsible citizen is backing governments in fighting against the pandemic.

I wish, as a true Indian, if we show the same determination, courage and sense of fraternity to eradicate ‘human-made’ epidemics like Untouchability, Starvation and Social Discrimination, the day is not far for India, with its thousands of years old culture and knowledge, to be the real leader of the world. If citizens with the determination resolve to eradicate these menaces, deceptive political and artful religious leaders will have no chance to manipulate the social fabric of the country.  This shall be the great service to Mother India. 

As is the attitude over the centuries and the discrimination is running in the veins of people like blood, I suspect it is not going to happen soon as we all are selfish with our own hidden agendas. One more troubling true aspect in India that matters is the underprivileged and downtrodden classes themselves are playing in the hands of shrewd upper class becoming their pawns. 

By: Vinod Kumar Sinandi

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