When India was standing divided between her conflicting views and beliefs on politics, religion, nationalism, economy, Delhi riots, and many such issues, she didn’t know that an invisible enemy was standing at its fragile doorstep. When she had just reached its molten point as a polarised society, she hardly had any idea about this new enemy and how to cope with it.
And then a sudden tremor of shock passed over her, and the people started realizing that if they would have prioritized what is essential rather than fighting over petty things, then the situation would have been different and much better. At the heat of the moment, I also anticipated that this would bring a new revolutionary spirit of unity, humanity, and realization.
I thought people would realize that what is most important for a human race – health, education, and development to tackle such situations rather than false pride surrounding trivial issues.
But to my dismay, what I saw was a new form of narrow mindedness breeding in our society, washing away all hopes of change. It is unfortunate that as a society, we stooped further low to ostracize and taboo people who came under the grip of this global pandemic, which had already dug the mass graves in many countries, including China and Italy, Spain, and the US.
The people failed to understand that they can also be on the other side, sooner or later.
Right from the patients to the doctors, whoever came into the radar of being or getting infected suddenly started realizing that more than a health hazard, it has become an issue of taboo, making them the new untouchables of the society.
Though a couple of times, some stories of marginalizing the COVID- 19 patients had grabbed my attention, I couldn’t understand the gravity of the situation until one of my best friends, Poornima, was diagnosed with Corona. Like Poornima, there are many such incidences that once again exposed the ugly side of our society.
Here is an account of her horrific experiences of how society judged and marginalized her and her family when she needed their support.
Poornima, an employee in the Zila Panchayat office in the central Indian state Chhattisgarh, didn’t have the liberty to work from home. During a mass check-up conducted in her office in June, she and her 17 other colleagues tested positive for Corona. And there started her ordeal.
Within minutes of her diagnosis, she found herself caught amid the ugly blame game. Poornima, who had travelled back from Uttarakhand before resuming her services, was blamed for bringing the virus. While all her positive tested colleagues are from different departments and had hardly contacted her, the ones who came in contact with her had tested negative.
Poornima said that this is why people with symptoms apprehend from going for a test, and in case they do and test positive, then many do not reveal. This is ironic that, on the one hand, it is expected from infected people to intimate the authorities regarding their status while, on the other, they are blamed, when they do so. More than the disease, it is the taboo and the fear of getting ostracised that is killing people.
She says at this time when the patients need to be most stress-free to ensure faster recovery, the society is not only showing its back to them but is also not leaving any stone unturned to make them feel as culprits or the new untouchables. Her neighbours continuously called her already stressed parents and asked where their daughter went to catch COVID.
During these testing times, her family felt ostracized by her neighbours and community, while only friends came forward to help. Her friend Shantanu used to take food for her every day and hand it over to the authorities outside the COVID ward. She couldn’t bear the poor quality food of the government hospital with bare minimal facilities.
She was also asked by her house-help and neighbours to show the COVID report results to check if she had been negative before letting the maid work in both the homes consecutively.
Poornima said, “We don’t have any problem showing the report, but the question is, to how many people will we have to be answerable and why?” She added further by saying only those who suffer can understand how appalling the situation can become for a COVID patient in our society.
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By @jigyasa.mishra In UP, Covid-19 survivors, including returning migrants, struggle with costly treatment, dirty quarantine centres, social stigma, even religious discrimination. Many long to go back to their host towns Full story in the bio. #covid_19 #covid19 #coronavirus #lockdown #discrimination #stigma
In another incident, one of our family friends residing in Chennai, Sahil, a doctor, shared his plight of being judged because of his profession. He shared how his neighbours ganged up against him and his family and asked their house-help (common to all homes) to quit working in his home to avoid contacting doctors as they are more prone to infection.
The cases of doctors being expelled from rented apartments, not giving access to the crematorium by the nearby residents, and getting rape or assault threats if they refute from vacating the apartments are numerous. It is so paradoxical of our society to expect doctors to treat in a situation like this but not be a part of it.
Despite our government and Prime Minister’s repeated appeals to treat the COVID patients and Corona warriors with dignity, numerous incidences were reported from all across the country, exposing how the families with COVID infected patients were harassed.
In such a horrifying incident that came to light in July, two flats near Domlur in Bengaluru were sealed with metal sheets by the municipal corporation’s workers after one of the family members tested Corona positive. Only after a national outcry, those barricades were removed following an apology from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner, N Manjunatha Prasad. This is not an isolated case. Innumerable similar incidences happened after this, giving way to many questions and implications.
Are we turning into a society that believes in creating more taboos than solutions? And in a society, as divided as India in between so many castes and creeds, has COVID emerged as a new caste or parameter to judge and stigmatize people?
(All the names of the people mentioned above have been changed to respect their privacy)