On 26th May, the first domestic flight within India open to commercial passengers took off. However, this operation was marred by confusion. In all of the 1100 flights scheduled, about half had to be canceled, as airlines struggled to comply with the numerous safety instructions issued by states and by the federal government.
As India and the world slowly open up their economy, one of the greatest enemies of public safety and trust will be confusion. As some sectors open up, many are left asking which shops or industries can open and when. Miscommunication about this has led many to open prematurely, risking themselves, their employees, and family members. On the other hand, many have lost out on business days, making them strained for income in already challenging times.
However, the most horrifying cases of this are not on the shopkeeper's end on the consumer end. Reports during the lockdown of people who were out to buy groceries and milk being stopped and brutalized by the police show how much of an information disparity exists between the populace and the police force, which is tasked with enforcing the lockdown.
These instances have not been isolated to customers buying groceries either. In Delhi, a MetLife delivery agent who was on his way to collect a parcel was stopped and beaten up by the police, who accused him of violating the curfew. Similar instances were recorded in Bangalore. This once again highlights the disparity between information provided to the public and the police.
If a person is unaware of the right way and timing to go out to buy essential supplies for their family or to deliver essentials to people who need these supplies, it causes mass confusion. Not being sure about getting back without being beaten up or charged with violation of the lockdown causes immense anxiety among the people who are trying their best to ensure supplies for their families or providing life-saving medicines to people who need them.
This is what has caused an environment of fear and confusion across many places in India, not knowing the right way to do something that can deter people from doing it to the brink of desperation. Coming back to the first example, half of all domestic flights being canceled has put many people in airports across the country at risk. As more and more people are stuck in airports, the risk of the virus spreading has increased. At the same time, this has left people stuck and anxious about their plans. Many of these people were trying to return home following the lockdown and what may have been a glimmer of hope for them, has quickly spiraled into a nightmare once again.
While the Prime Minister has made it a point to urge people not to go out during lockdown or to panic buy or meet unless necessary, this has not been enough to inform specific people on a more localized level. We need people being provided updates specific to their condition and make information more accessible, not only to people who can easily access the internet but to everyone who will be needed to work in tandem to make this lockdown a beneficial one. That means every one of us needs to be informed.
It is immensely important to keep a populace informed of the provisions and limitations put into place during the reopening phase of the lockdown. While there will always be people skirting the rules and breaking the lockdown, who deserve to be punished, it is time we stop punishing people who simply don't know what is right. It is time to take action because a confused populace is a scared.