MAHA RETAINS 50% LIMIT! BY ARVIND PINTO

CAUTIOUS: Unlike Goa, Maharashtra is being very careful about lifting covid-19 restrictions regarding malls and shops which are allowed to remain open only till 4pm.

By Arvind Pinto

Unlike Goa which has re-opened casinos and permitted more than 50% occupancy of tourist resorts and convention halls, Maharashtra only permits them to operate at 50% capacity. Even malls are only allowed to remain open till 4pm.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2021, fortunately being a Sunday, was the last of the Ganesh Visarjan dates. When idols of Lord Ganesh, popularly as the elephant-headed god of Hinduism who brings good luck and better times for his devotees, were taken to the seashore for being immersed in the waters of the Arabian sea.
According to one report, 34,452 Ganesh idols were immersed on Sunday! Of the totally immersed idols, 5,043 were Sarvajanik or mandal or community platform idols; plus there were the , 29,060 family Ganesh idols at home and 349 idols of Goddess Gauri. Amongst the idols immersed in artificial lakes 11,387 were of family Ganpati idols, 1,890 of public mandal and 165 of Goddess Gauri, according to an official report.
Yes, Lord Ganesh got a good send-off but did his departure from earth leave his devotees more in the grip of the corona virus pandemic infection? It is too early ot tell but in the weeks to come we will know if there is a resurgence of the dreaded infection or a third wave which the local authorities have been warning the people about.
As I sit to write this piece we hear about cases of the new variants which are the cause of fresh concern, but not to the level witnessed in the first and second waves. Despite the restrictions and need to maintain social distancing, little of this was practiced during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Several celebrants wore masks but during the visarjan procession the need for social distancing was observed more in the breach than in observance. The police were out in full force to check unsocial or criminal activity, but the devotees faith in Lord Ganesh that he would save them from every evil including covid was the deciding factor.
The only significant tragedy was that of a 17-year-old, who had gone to immerse a Ganesh idol at Versova beach on Sunday night, with his elder brother and three friends, was found washed up dead on the beach the next morning on Monday. Search operations are also underway to find out if the two friends with him are also drowning cases as it is feared. Two members of the group were saved from the tragedy. Details are yet to be confirmed.
IT IS early to tell whether all these visarjan celebarations of Lord Ganesh idols would bring in fresh new cases of covid in Mumbai. Mumbai city recorded 423 fresh cases and five deaths while the Mumbai region logged 922 fresh cases along with six new deaths. While it is true that the number of fresh cases are few, the fact that Covid new variants are multiplying and cases on the increase is the new reality.
Yes, fatalities are not alarming, thanks to increased vaccinations. Maharashtra, being an Opposition ruled state, the day of the Prime Minister’s birthday did not see an increase in the number of vaccinations in yet another celebration. It is a matter of concern that the virus of politics holds sway over a national campaign such as vaccination. It probably all started with the government deciding to plant a picture of the Prime Minister on each vaccine certificate issued, prompting wags to ask: Should the PM’s photograph adorn every issue promoted by the government?
The government of the day may like to promote the PM as its sole idol, create a cult around a particular personality, but this depreciates the concept of a collective effort which all mature democracies aspire for.

RELAXED GUIDELINES

WITH the decrease in covid cases in Mumbai there is a slew of relaxed guidelines taking over public life. All shops, malls and other commercial establishments are allowed to operate until 4 pm. Similarly, restaurant and hotels too may operate till 4 pm. However, restaurants may operate only to 50% of their capacity.
Sports clubs and gymkhanas are now open and can operate with the exception of swimming or playing games requiring close physical crowding or contact. Therefore, games such as rugby are banned, while badminton or tennis is permitted.
BEST buses, the lifeline of Mumbai, transport passengers but no standees are permitted. Local suburban train services have commenced, but travel is restricted to only fully vaccinated persons. Private offices can operate till 4pm with 50% of its staff. Despite the restrictions there is little enforcement of these orders!
One sees the usual crowding at markets and public places, masks are worn merely for decorative value around the neck and social distancing is going for a toss more or less in observance. At the same time, the pace of vaccinations continues gradually. While many elderly citizens have got their “tikka” there are still many below 45 years of age who are awaiting vaccination. Fortunately, schools are still not open. It is essential that children be vaccinated before schools open and they resume classes with physical presence and as in the old normal with some precautions taken by school authorities.

ALL IS NOT WELL

MORE importantly, the economy has not yet picked up to anyone’s satisfaction. While the rising stock market gives an illusion or something to the effect of a mirage that all’s well with the economy, the reality is otherwise. Urban unemployment continues to rise. The flow of easy money put into circulation by the Reserve Bank is fueling inflation which is now over 8%.
However, with an abundant supply of food courtesy a good monsoon, there is no urgent crises at present. Everything appears rosy but the underlying economic structural imbalance continues to haunt many in the state as elsewhere in the country and there people live in the fear that this is just the lull before covid-19 strikes again! If only these fears could be put to rest once and for all.

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