Parliaments around the world are meeting and brainstorming in regards with COVID-19 pandemic. The British Parliament has adopted in-person and video conferencing methods for conducting sessions. Sundry other countries have held sessions either with social distancing measures (fewer MPs attending) or video conferencing or a combination of the both systems. Though Indian Parliament is somewhat lacking. No doubt Indian Parliament is working through these tough times but their actions are hampering the peace in not just one way. It is no secret that hundreds of people are on herding roads protesting for the newly introduced bills and acts, let it be the 3 AGRI-SECT related bills or new Industrial Relation Code Bill, 2020. We cannot turn blind eye to this, all these protests are adding to pile of problems we’re facing today as a nation amidst COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
Parliament plays a central role in our governance system. Laws are made by Parliament. The decisions taken by the government (central) till date are taken under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which wasn’t designed to handle epidemics and pandemics like this one. The central government had no other choice as there was no other law that provide it with powers to impose a lockdown across the country to captivate the infection. The Parliament could have passed an appropriate Act. Like many other countries — an Act with suitable for such circumstances. It seems like the Parliament has closed; while the Schools perhaps are reopening. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had permitted reopening of schools, but the final decision remains on the states. Most of the states have chosen not to reopen schools immediately viz., the safe thing to do. We’ve seen how the cases skyrocketed in countries that dared to open schools amid the pandemic. Authorities opine that: Students elsewhere (in other countries) are not taking a gap year, hence our students can’t either. But, Government authorities should understand that one size won’t fit all, the risk cannot be eliminated completed, but needs to be reduced. Reopening of schools must be decided on the condition of the particular area. Pictures are changing every minute as more cases are recorded. The news that schools in several states will reopen soon is very disturbing in this moment. Children can be the ‘super-spreaders’ of Novel Corona Virus Disease. Here, the danger is actually for the parents and grandparents and not the children. The lockdown and the precautions taken especially in the beginning of this blunder, a large number of the elderly have been protected from the virus. This is the reason for lower numbers of COVID-19 cases and low mortality rates (comparative to the rest of the planet) — one of the lowest. Right now, the COVID-19 cases in India are surging back again as the second wave strikes us. And if the schools are opened prematurely, there is a huge chance that the children will not only infect each other but also the vulnerable mass in their homes and surroundings.
After all schools are one of the primary sources of socialization viz., in the current scenario very dangerous. Countries like the U.S. and the U.K. and rest of Europe have already and still are suffering from second wave of COVID-19 that brought them on their knees again. In some of the countries, including the U.K., lockdowns have been re-introduced. U.K. was one of the first countries to allow reopening of schools. It is easy inside the head to picture, children to take the precautions like wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and frequent washing of hands. But that is only hypothetical; on ground level it is too idealistic! Especially in India where the classrooms are designed for 50 students to sit closely and are crowded. And what about when they want to drink water or eat their meals? It is evident to see even adults not wearing the mask properly (below their nose), how can we expect the children to act better and all disciplined? All this will do is to lead to a surge in the COVID-19 cases even more.
The second wave is to happen between December and February. The decline in numbers has slowed down; cases are increasing every minute as we count. If this continues we will be back to square one. In the worst case scenario, a further lockdown will be enforced, followed by frustration, panic among masses and loss of jobs and worsening economic situation. Is prematurely reopening schools worth this risk? 5 months have already passed (since June), and in 4 months the academic year will be completed (i.e. March) and then there will long holidays before schools to reopen in June 2021. It is likely (everyone hopes) by that time, vaccines will be available and administered. Hence continuation of online classes till the end of this academic session makes sense and is rational. A fresh start can be made in June 2021 with regular classes in schools.
CONCLUSION Although people may argue that studying from home is difficult and not effective as a big part of the population doesn’t have a proper access to the Internet. I totally agree that this is the harsh truth. But there is no immediate solution to this. Every possible attempt must be made to catch up and regularise, once the schools start post pandemic. For now the only exception that can be made for students who are in the Board Classes i.e. 10th and 12th. Children of those classes alone should be allowed to attend school in person. And in that case, seating in classes can be spaced out and social distancing can be maintained. Also older children, will be able to follow the preventive measures to wear a mask and so on. It is not sagacious to take such risks by opening the Pandora’s box and letting COVID-19 to rule the stage again, such hasty decisions like opening schools amid 2nd wave of the global pandemic is not a smart plan in the line of action.