Unlock 4 : New Covid Rules

The Government of India had announced a lockdown over the last few months due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A lockdown was imposed on the whole country from the month of April. The lockdowns were imposed as a preventive measure for the pandemic. Since rates of infection have still not gone down, these measures are being continued. Recently there has been a change in the guidelines and a new system of “Unlock” is being introduced in the country. Today, a new set of guidelines were announced regarding the unlock. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a new guideline about the opening up of more institutions and activities. Metro train services and open air theatres are to be allowed in areas other than Containment Zones. A new set of lockdowns is being extended in the country and the rules will apply to zones where there are active cases and places labelled as containment zones. Other zones will have less strict Unlock rules. These guidelines will be extended in the country till 30 September.

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The Centre has said,”The new guidelines, issued today, are based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments.” After issuing the guidelines, the Home ministry also announced opening up of more activities, like the resumption of Metro train services and open air theatres. Closed theatres have not been permitted to be kept open. Until further notice they will be closed. The re-opening of activities rule will only be applicable in areas outside the Containment Zones, said the Ministry. The Centre has allowed the states and Union Territories to permit up to 50 per cent of its teaching and non-teaching staff to be allowed to go to the schools for online teaching and other official and related work. States will also be allowed to permit students of classes 9 to 12 to visit their schools, but only in areas which are not included under the containment zones, said the government order. The Centre, however, has allowed reopening of higher education institutions. But this is only for research scholars and post-graduate students of technical and professional programmes which require necessary laboratory or experimental works in labs or other institutions. The previous Unlock 3 guidelines which were issued on July 29 had allowed the opening up of yoga institutes and gymnasiums. It had also removed restrictions on movement of individuals during night curfew.

School, colleges and other educational institutions will continue to remain closed for students, said the Centre on Saturday as it issued guidelines for the fourth phase of easing down the COVID-19 restrictions – “Unlock 4” – beginning September 1. This will be continuing for a month. The Home Ministry, issuing the guidelines, announced opening up of more activities, such as restarting of Metro train services and open air theatres. According to the Ministry, the re-opening of activities will only be allowed in areas outside the Containment Zones.

The Unlock3 guidelines issued on July 29 had allowed opening of yoga institutes and gymnasiums and removed restrictions on movement of individuals during night curfew. In its latest order, the States have also been asked not to impose any local lockdown restrictions in places outside Containment Zones. According to the government data, India’s COVID-19 numbers rose to 34,63,972 with a single-day spike of 76,472 new infections, while the death count climbed to 62,550 in 24 hours.

Free Press?

Democracy is a system of the government in which the people of the state or the citizens have the power to directly select their representatives amongst themselves and form a governing body such as a parliament, senate, or a body that can be called by other names. It is a system where eligible members of the state elect the government. Although it is flawed still it is the most preferred form of government because it assures that government caters to every person’s need unlike autocracy and if the government fails to do so, it can be changed after completing its tenure or even before if people would like to. India, the world’s largest democracy adopted it in 1947 after gaining independence from the British regime. Like every other thing, democracy lies on some foundation namely,  legislative, executive, judiciary, and most importantly media. But media is independent unlike the rest of the three pillars. It functions outside the government ensuring the ruling body has no control over it.  Because the Press is the voice of people, it is considered to be the voice of the voiceless. The Press existed even before independence and it certainly proves that any sort of media or press is by the people of the state not by the ruling body.  Democracy may be very powerful in its own terms and conditions but is not fully efficient in working without media, especially the free press. The media acts as a bridge between the government and the people as it tends to inform people about the functions performed by the government. It also informs the government officials about the problems faced by people in their respective constituencies. Hence, the democratic system is only fully efficient when the state enjoys a free press. It stands for the civic rights, political rights, and religious rights of the people. Media plays a vital role in forming opinions and influencing decision making by the people, comparing present and past experiences, actions, works, etc. done by different governing bodies. It also helps in giving feedback, exposure, and conduit mechanisms by the people to the government, so that the representatives can work according to their needs and requirements. Citizens receive the information about the new policies, projects, schemes, laws, amendments, etc. through media, by which they can assess the working of the government and analyze if the deeds are beneficial for them or not. The Press also acts as a crucial instrument for accounting. A person can forget the promises made by their leaders but a printed newspaper, video, or audio recording will act as a piece of reminding evidence for both citizens and the government after all the elected government is accountable to the citizens of the state. The people who work in the press must be unafraid. Some brave journalists do perform string operations, do investigations, and find out the reality. It tends to fight against corruption, unfulfilled promises, disloyal behavior, or misuse of power in public or private life. But due to its immense power several times it was hindered from functioning. History tells about many circumstances when the press was not allowed to function smoothly. Indira Gandhi during emergency choked the print media by not giving them advertisements cutting off their revenue. Also, electronic media was controlled by the government and therefore it easily hid that emergency has been declared. Even the British did not spare the Indian media. Press worked so vigorously during the regime in promoting the idea of freedom that they had to bring the Indian Press Act 1910. Today Indian Press has been ranked 140 out of 180 countries which participated in the index. This is extremely saddening and frightening since India being the world’s largest “democracy” is now trying to undermine its own foundation. The audacity with which many Indian news channels spread hate is deeply terrifying, people should gain consciousness because a lie told a hundred times becomes the truth. We should ask ourselves, “Is our Press really free?”