Vigilantism in testing times of COVID-19 triggers ire

Political class unites in condemning vigilantism in testing times of coronavirus

The government has called for a crackdown to check fake news and asked top social media platforms to control misinformation on coronavirus

Representative image (PTI Photo)

As the nationwide lockdown enters its second day, lumpenism and vigilantism have emerged as major challenges with incidents of harassment of health workers and aviation crews being reported from different regions in the country, prompting lawmakers to step in.

The incidents triggered condemnation from across the political spectrum and on social media.

As a number of rumours are doing the rounds, the government has called for a crackdown to check fake news and asked top social media platforms to control misinformation on coronavirus.

Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said he was deeply distressed to know that some aviation professionals who have been at the forefront of India's efforts to prevent and contain the spread of coronavirus and even rescue fellow citizens from COVID-19 around the world are being harassed by their neighbours, RWAs and others.

Asserting that he respects the selfless commitment & determination of these professionals, the minister said he has requested the concerned authorities to extend all possible help, support and protection to them and their families including those who are in self-quarantine.

On March 22 as well, when such incidents came to light,  Air India put out a press release assuring people that its crew members who are returning from affected cities are sent on home quarantines and also to a designated hospital for a checkup as per the standard protocol and noted with concern that many ‘vigilante’ Residents Welfare Associations and neighbours have started ostracising the crew.

It also appealed to the police and law enforcement agencies to ensure that the crew members are treated with courtesy, respect and freedom which every other individual is entitled to. An Indigo staff had also put out a video narrating her ordeal. Indigo had also put out a statement.

The incidents are not limited to Air India staffs or aviation sector.

A spokesperson with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and its Rajya Sabha Member Manoj Jha also noted with concern that some disturbing new coming about doctors, healthcare professionals, sanitation workers, who are in the front of fighting COVID 19 are being criminalized. Recalling that the other day also Air India had to make an appeal for their crew, Jha rued “doesn't it show the extent of sickness in our society.”

The incidents evoked strong reactions on social media as well with Twitteratis cautioning against the spread of this “heckling virus” and called for strict action against the trouble mongers as they flagged with concern media reports that doctors and nursing staffs being kicked out of their rented accommodation.

Home Ministry had earlier written to state governments flagging that it has come to their notice that people from North East have been facing harassment after the occurrence of COVID-19. Calling this as “racially discriminatory”, the ministry had asked the state governments to ensure that the law enforcement takes appropriate action against those cases.

This was after the ministry last week stumbled upon cases in which even Athletes and sportsperson from the region were harassed linking them to COVID 19.

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