Bhubaneswar: The world is today fighting the battle against a disease that has little comparison in human history. It has affected all the countries irrespective of how they are developed or underdeveloped. Though it originated in China, its tentacles are spread around the world. The severity of the Coronavirus can be judged from the number of affected people and the number of deaths it has already caused. Though the virus is dangerous, it can be prevented with care and concern. Today, as we are fighting it, we have another great challenge facing us that is more serious than the disease itself – the stigma attached with the Coronavirus. As with other unknown diseases, Coronavirus has also come with some social stigma attached with it that needs to be cured. Lack of knowledge about the disease and the fear associated with it are responsible for the stigma attached with it. Now the time has come to end the stigma and send the message – Hate the disease and not the Victim.
In countries like India and other third world countries with significant rural and semi urban populations and divergent ethnicities, the spread of stigma attached with any diseases is swift and has a negative impact than the disease itself. At this juncture, when we are fighting the Coronavirus by using all our resources, we need to eradicate the social stigma attached with this. The current COVID-19 outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behavior against people of certain ethnic backgrounds as well as anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus which is totally unacceptable.
At this time, we have the responsibility to treat the disease and the associated stigma sensibly. In states like Odisha, from where a large number of people are staying in other states and today want to return back to the state, the issue of social stigma is alarming. As they are returning, we have to treat them with compassion and create a conducive environment where they will feel safe.
The Odisha government has taken a right decision with regard to bringing in the stranded migrant people to the state with all its resources. For Odisha, its entire people are equal and those staying outsides also need to be taken care of. When we compare the different states of the country, we may have different languages and different cultures, but we are all Indians. The building blocks of Indian democracy stand on the foundations of divergent states. There should not be any hatred among the states with regard to helping the migrants and stranded people. As Odias we have a great tradition of helping the needy and continuing it we should help the people of other states also.
At this juncture, an apt quote of Utklamani Gopabandhu Dash guides us to our responsibility – Jivana ki khali nirasha ra bali… Maru marichika seneha preeti… Tebe ki asha re kaha e sanshare… Para pain nara maruchhi niti…
The government of Odisha is facilitating the return of its people from other states and has to take care of their necessities in the coming days. The people have to return as a fall out of the pandemic and there is a greater need to engage them in productive work thereby helping them live a respectable life.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been in the forefront making people aware about treating the people who are coming back to Odisha. He has said that, those who are returning home are our people and there should not be any discrimination against them. As the government is preparing itself to bring back the lakhs of people stranded outside because of the lockdown, the Odisha government’s efforts to make people aware are laudable.
We have seen in some of the metro cities, the stranded people being discriminated against without any reason leading to protests. Internationally also there are racist attacks on people belonging to China and other countries. These are not allowed in a civilized society and we as a society, have a great role to play. Raising awareness and sharing accurate and transparent information about the novel coronavirus is the prime responsibility today for all including the media.