Even though Punjab’s Covid positivity rate of over 10 per cent is among the highest in the country, a section of the state’s politicians — including those from the ruling party — is cocking a snook at the safety protocols. On Friday night, several Congress leaders assembled for a celebration at a resort on the outskirts of Bathinda, in violation of the Covid norms. It was only after footage of the incident went viral on social media and sparked public outrage that the police sealed the place and registered a case against the owner. Another video clip that shows a Congress MLA dancing at a wedding with his friends and relatives — all of them without a mask — is also being widely circulated.
On April 7, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had announced a ban on political gatherings in the state till April 30 in view of the surge in coronavirus cases. He had warned that violators, including political leaders, would be booked under the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act. However, just five days later, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu was spotted without a mask at an event where newly elected councillors of the Mohali Municipal Corporation took oath. Social distancing was conspicuous by its absence when he posed for photographs with his brother — the new Mayor — and other local politicians.
The Assembly elections are not due in Punjab before January 2022, yet political leaders seem to be already in the poll mode amid the raging pandemic. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal addressed rallies in the state last month, exposing large crowds to the risk of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, such irresponsible behaviour is continuing unabated, albeit on a smaller scale, even after the imposition of the so-called ban on political events. The onus is on the law enforcement agencies to take the offenders to task, irrespective of their party affiliations, while the politicians themselves need to mend their ways. Unless there is zero tolerance to the violations at all levels, the situation will only worsen in Punjab.