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I have been watching people speak on camera about the Corona pandemic and how India is handling its fallout. It makes me happy to notice that almost all of them are sane voices. Mature and professional, they exude resolve, confidence, balance and efficiency. The social responsibility messages from spiritual leaders, medical professionals, business heads and government spokespersons have also been heartening. One comment by an established public health professional that beautifully summed up our efforts to battle the pandemic was *”Either you are part of the epidemic spread or part of the fight.”*

Indeed, it is a zero sum game; at least till such time we achieve an acceptable degree of control over the virus transmission. In this battle for survival, there can be no half measures. There is no victory stand in war – no silver or bronze medals. A victory should be decisive. And hence the plan for battle, in this case survival, cannot be a compromise in any manner whatsoever. Tough times call for boldness in action and measures that would seem harsh in better times. No right thinking person or entity will contest that. However, our experience has shown that several individual actions, collective practices and social phenomena are contrary to common sense and upset the zero sum game. Let me outline a few.

The first is the *Blockade Runner*. These people unnecessarily roam the streets during lockdown and risk infection. The police have been most courteous and understanding but those who got lathis on their butts deserved them. The second is our *Thekedaar*. These guys are nothing more than slave brokers without responsibility. They were the first to stop payments to the migrant labour and disown them, triggering the exodus. The country needs a hard relook at how we handle workers that we cannot do without yet do not improve their lot. The third is what I call *The Flock*. These are bodies of people who come together for social, political, religious or any other reason – their purpose being so important that they do not care about fellow beings – or maybe they are just plain dimwits. Their leaders are squarely to blame and must be answerable to the law.

At serial four, we have *Extreme Liberals and Self-styled Crusaders for the Downtrodden* who feel that every administrative action is high-handed, anti-poor and a murder of human liberties. Fortunately, there has not been too much mindless activism on this account so far except on the ‘migrants’ issue. Finally, we have a large group of faceless individuals and amorphous entities that I would like to call the *Misinformation Brigade*. This is a complex assortment of fake and paid news peddlers, rumour mongers, doomsday merchants who prey on human fear, and sleeper cells of inimical forces who get activated in such times to fuel fears and unrest. They prefer to operate through the convenient and anonymous mode of social media besides other traditional methods of propaganda and subversion. We must refrain from unwittingly doing things that assist these dark forces by checking veracity of reports, desisting from sending forwards and reporting miscreants.

What more should we do? We can effectively use technology and data gathered to profile individuals, entities and activities on all these five categories to create a database for analysis, not just to learn lessons but more importantly, shape policy in the future.

For the present, all of us must fight on the same side and defeat the Coronavirus by a knockout.

31 Mar 20

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