HE Allahabad High Court Monday imposed a lockdown in Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur even as it came down heavily on the government for the Covid19 crisis in the state. For the rest of the state, it again asked the government to consider imposing a lockdown for two weeks.
Those at the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems and more so when there is a democracy which means a government of the people, by the people and for the people, a bench of Justices Siddhartha Varma and Ajit Kumar said.
The bench said if people died in the pandemic in large numbers due to the paucity of medical aid, the governments would be to blame for failing to counter the pandemic even after one long year of experience and learning
“….we have enough to spend on elections and very little to spend on public health”, the High Court said.
It added in any civilised society if the public health system is not able to meet the challenges and people die for want of proper medication, it means there has been no proper development.
“It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance”, the HC said.
HC said it found the scenario that emerged from the Government Hospitals that admission of patients to ICUs were largely being done on the recommendation of VIPs.
“Even supply of life-saving anti viral drug namely Remdesivire is being provided only on the recommendation of VIPs. VIPs and VVIPs are getting their RT-PCR report within 12 hours, whereas, ordinary citizen is kept waiting for such reports for two to three days and thus, spreading further infection to other members of his/her family”, the HC said.
Taking the example of the population of Prayagraj (Allahabad), which is nearly 30 lakhs, it said the total available beds in the 12 government hospitals was 1477 (L2 and L3) and 500 in the L1 category and only 514 in ICUs. The medical health infrastructure that the government had developed could cater to the needs of less than 0.5% of the city’s population. In villages, the situation was still worse. These figures may be approximate but they quite explain the situation, the court said.
The court issued the following directions that will remain operative in the five cities mentioned above:
- All establishments be it government or private, except financial institutions and financial departments, medical and health services, industrial and scientific establishments, essential services including municipal functions, and public transport, shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021. The judiciary will, however, function on its own discretion;
- All shopping complexes and malls shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All grocery shops and other commercial shops excluding medical shops, with more than three workers shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All hotels, restaurants and even the small eating points on thelas etc. shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All institutions like educational institutions and other institutions relating to other disciplines and activities be it government, semi government or private shall remain closed including for their teachers and instructors and other staff till 26th April, 2021 (this direction is for the whole of Uttar Pradesh);
- No social functions and gatherings including marriage functions shall be permitted till 26th April, 2021. However, in case of already fixed marriages a necessary further permission would have to be taken from the District Magistrate of the concerned district. Gatherings would be limited to 25 persons and the district magistrate concerned shall take decision after giving due consideration to the prevailing situation of the impact of Covid 19 including notification of containment zones in the area where such marriage has to take place;
- All religious activities in public of any kind is directed to remain suspended till 26th April, 2021;
- All religious establishments of any kind are directed to remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All hawkers including fruits and vegetable vendors, milk vendors and bread vendors, shall go off the road by 11 AM every day till 26th April, 2021;
- Containment zones shall be notified every day in two leading Hindi and English newspapers having wide circulation in the districts of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar/ Dehat and Gorakhpur.
- All public movements on roads would remain restricted completely, subject to above directions. Movements would be only allowed in case of medical help and emergencies.
- In addition to the above directions, State Government to go robust for implementing the current vaccination programme.
Pointing out that the directions were nowhere close to a complete lockdown, the court said, “We are conscious of the fact that before imposing a lockdown the concerned government has to work out various modalities”.
“In this order, if we have not imposed a lockdown it does not mean that we do not believe in it. We are still of the view that if we want to break the chain a lockdown for a duration of at least two weeks is a must”, the HC said.
It also expressed displeasure at the way the government and the State Election Commission had proceeded to hold elections, forcing teachers and other government staff to perform duties and exposing themselves to the threat of the coronavirus. The police was shifted to polling places, giving priority to election above public health.