The way the pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the new Coronavirus in India has indicated the danger, it has exposed not only the flaws in our country’s public health system but also the legal framework related to risk-related dialogue and crisis management.
The lockdown that the government has announced in the entire country has been imposed under the era of imperialism under the Epidemic Disease Act. The National Disaster Management Act made in the year 2005 has also taken help; however, both of these laws do not explain the dialogue at the time of any crisis. While correct communication with the public is the most important element in disaster management in times of crisis, the demand of the hour today is that both these laws should be changed at a rapid pace and these should also include national disaster management measures.
Today, the medium of digital means of communication has increased; it has become necessary that these elements also be brought under the ambit of the law. In addition, the World Health Organisation should immediately make changes to the International Health Regulation (IHR) and set protocols to deal with any crisis and communicate risks.
Policy controllers should take inspiration from the Hyogo Framework as it elaborates on the entire action plan of its management during any disaster. This framework talks about “early warning systems to be developed which is people-centric”. In particular, such systems will timely warn people in such a way that they, the general public who are at risk from this crisis understand.
In these mediums of communication, different sections of the population should also take care of issues related to their sexuality, culture and livelihood. It should also include guidelines that tell people what to do if they get a warning. Similar broad and inclusive guidelines need to be legalized so that the provision to deal with the crisis in India are effective.
However, it will take time to bring changes in the law. In such a situation, the government of India and all ministries related to disaster management should actively communicate with their counterpart departments in the states. Social organizations and civic groups should also be included in this dialogue so that the means of communication can be strengthened. Information should be clear and accessible to the public.
We have to do all this before the community transition of COVID-19 starts in India, otherwise, if we wait any longer, every section of the society will be seen drowning in the flow of this pandemic.