Personal freedom and public responsibly

Rohit Dhankar

Professor Jean Dreze made an important argument in his lead article in The Hindu on 23rd March 2020. Not much attention seems be paid to this angle of precautionary measures, especially, of self-isolation. I quote his argument below, with emphasis added.

“To assess the case for various precautionary measures, we must bear in mind the dual motive for taking precautions. When you decide to stay at home, there are two possible motives for it: a self-protection motive and a public-purpose motive. In the first case, you act out of fear of being infected. In the second, you participate in collective efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Some people think about precautions as a matter of self-protection. What they may not realise is that the individual risk of getting infected is still tiny — so small that it is hardly worth any self-protection efforts (except for special groups such as health workers and the elderly). Four hundred thousand people die of tuberculosis in India every year, yet we take no special precautions against it. So why do we take precautions when seven people have died of COVID-19? The enlightened reason is not to protect ourselves, but to contribute to collective efforts to halt the epidemic.”

Taking the same argument forward, when you ignore the efforts for ‘self-imposed isolation’ you are being negligent of your public duty as a citizen. And when you deliberately oppose and hinder the national efforts of isolation, you are acting against the public interest. You are deliberately endangering others. You are being an anti-social and enemy of the public.

I saw a few videos on that same day (23rd March) as this article was published which are very disturbing from this point of view. And I have not seen any comments from our enlightened commentators on this betrayal of the public interest.

I am referring only to three of them here. One is perhaps from Indore (not certain) where supporters of PM Modi’s call for Janata-curfew undo the effect of their own day log efforts as at 5 pm when they go out in the form of a procession beating their thalis and other utensils. (Video here) They think that they are supporting Modi, and are feeling proud of this. While actually they are being idiots and going against whole idea of Janata-curfew. And being public enemies in the bargain. There must have been many such incidents in the country, in which right after the self-imposed isolation people undid whatever small benefit that effort might have given. Modi should think carefully, he does not need enemies as long as he has such blind supporters.

Two another videos, as a sample, from among hosts of such videos are here Video1 and Video2. The people in these videos claim it to be a matter of their faith to congregate for namaz in mosques, in spite of dangers of spread of the virus. No fear of COVID-19 can shake their faith in Allah and they will defy any order to continue to follow their faith. Of course, they are within their rights to ignore personal risk and do as their Allah might be telling them. (Personally, I don’t think that if the Allah is a reality, he can be that stupid.) But they are also part of a society where others, who are not protected by that Allah as they do not believe in Him, also live. In the name of their faith they proclaiming loud and clear, that they will not participate in any self-isolation effort, they will rather hinder such efforts. And continue to endanger other people’ lives in the name of their faith or politics.

There have been furious debates and really mean and barbed tweets on Modi’s thali-taali event. Many rightly so, as some people actually did behave foolishly and claimed that it will help kill the virus. Some deliberately misinterpreted that it is fooling the public, giving them circus rather than safety. However, the same critical thinkers have been completely silent on this arrogant display of public animosity in the name of faith in Allah.

There also have been gau-mitra parties to contain the virus. As far as collective enjoyment of consuming gau-mutra according to their faith goes, it is their right. I think there are six-gavayas rather than five. The traditional five are: milk, curds, ghee, cow-umbrine and cow-dung. I would add one more to make it six: milk, curds, ghee, beef, gau-mutra and gobar. It is a matter of personal taste how many of them you consume or do other things with them. Personally, I will restrict myself to the first four as far as consumption goes; but have absolutely no objection to those who want to widen their scope and consume all six. Having said that, organising parties (gathering together for the joy of collective consumption of cow-urine) in the time of COVID-19 is concerned, this is an act of public betrayal. This is not only about the party-goers; it is about you and me, with whom they are highly likely to come in contact.

By the acts of holding parties, taking out processions and congregating for namaz in the name of personal, political and religious freedom, these people are being public enemies. They are endangering yours and my safety as well. They should be condemned by sane public without any consideration of political correctness. Our liberties can not endanger others’ lives. Yes, they have their constitutional rights of personal, political and religious freedoms; but only as far as they do not risk other innocent and law-abiding citizens’ lives and liberties. Also, those who go red in the face and stretch themselves to their full hight in arrogance on hearing the sound of a thali and conch-shell, but whose spine becomes jelly in the face of collective namaz these days, are being irresponsible backbone-less hypocrites. We can not rely on these double standard people; the straight-thinking silent majority has to speak.


24th March 2020

2 Responses to Personal freedom and public responsibly

  1. Rupam Priya says:

    An eye-opener article… indeed a must read!
    Much Thanks @rohitdhankar


  2. […] but to contribute to collective efforts to halt the epidemic.” I have used this idea in one of my article and criticised all acts of violation of social-distance norms irrespective of religion of people […]


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