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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 30, New Delhi, July 11, 2020

A Letter to Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Chairman, Executive Board, World Health Organization | Anil Chamadia

Saturday 11 July 2020

From: Anil Chamadia, New Delhi, India

Subject: Regarding formulation of an oath for the Coronavirus warriors, to minimize their subjectivity while serving during emergency situations like Coronavirus pandemic outbreak

Mr. Dr. Harsh Vardhan,

I am writing this open letter regarding a major concern and a possible solution to it. The “HV” (Human Value) Pledge. This a possible suggestion regarding our Coronavirus warriors who, due to circulation of fake news on their mobile devices are not able to fulfill their duty in a free and fair manner. The media fraternity of the country has been very happy with the news of you becoming the Chairman of the Executive Board of WHO. One of the most striking features of this the time at, which you have taken up this duty is that the world is going through a very crucial time and the Minister of Health and Family Welfare of world’s most populous country at this time has been shouldered with a major responsibility.

Me being a part of the media fraternity is especially happy with the news because what I am trying and willing to state in this letter will be better understood with you being a Chairman of the Executive committee and simultaneously the Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India. I am sure that you might have come across various news and anecdotes of discrimination being faced by the COVID patients, which are put in the quarantine center. You must have felt very dejected with such news. Though the stories of discrimination are not only from our country but, since you now have a power which can influence people at a global level, I hope that through this pledge we would be able to disseminate a feeling of impartial work nature and a culture of brotherhood in the whole world.

While we believe that the frontline warriors are fighting the Coronavirus pandemic keeping at stake, their lives, but some unwanted and fake materials circulated on various media platforms have come in their way of fulfilling their duties in a non-discriminatory manner.

What we are witnessing today is a situation like no other. While the coronavirus or any such epidemic does not discriminate on the basis of caste, class, creed and gender but we humans, due to various influences have failed to remain completely impartial. This is being witnessed around the globe that, those who are at the lowest rung of the socio-economic order have been the worst hit by this pandemic. To exacerbate the situation, prejudice on the basis of religion, race, gender and caste has been practiced by those who are expected to work in a non-partisan manner.

Each type of government tries to instill hope among its citizen, that it won’t discriminate among its citizen on any aforementioned basis. Workers who work on behalf of the government are too made to take an oath of indiscrimination. Medical practice is considered to be one of the most noble profession, the basis of which is the same oath where they swear to be unprejudiced while performing their duties.

While these things can be true for normal situations, situations like a pandemic outbreak tends to test many such aspects of normally functioning society. We have witnessed that treatment of COVID hit patients is not impartial and they are being discriminated on the basis of their religion, class and caste. We feel that these oaths of indiscrimination and impartiality are taken by the workers only once during the term of their service. While under normal conditions, these workers are kept in check either through their fellow colleagues or the institution they work in but the psychological pressure during a situation of an emergency is vastly different. During these times, the need for impartiality gains more importance but to keep that in place becomes a great challenge. World Health Organization (WHO), released an appeal to not mark COVID patients based on their religion, caste or class but while the society, in reality, is very deeply divided and polarized on these bases, the oaths of indiscrimination seems very feeble and turns into a mere formality.

There has been a leap of advancement in the Information Technology (IT) sector. The oaths which are in place currently, is of the age when IT has not witnessed such an evolution. Today, each and every person involved in any kind of work has access to electronic devices and internet, which has immensely influenced their thoughts, opinions and duties. I have personally felt that those who are serving at the quarantine centers have been greatly affected by contents on their cellular phones generated on various media. Those responsible for the security of people at the quarantine centers have also been a part of discriminatory practices. The security and treatment of a patient is being decided by their religion, caste and class. The discriminatory practices which are in place in the larger society is also practiced with those who have been stuck in such emergency situation. When, pandemics such as Coronavirus outbreak calls for unity, such prevalent practices weaken our fight against it.

During such times when impartiality and unprejudiced behavior gains an unprecedented importance, organization of sensitizations programs becomes very vital. Through media outlets and central agencies, such programs should be made mandatory and should be organized within a fixed period of time. A part of sensitization program can be an oath which, should be repeated everyday by the workers before they commence their duties.

Oath “We pledge that we, throughout the period of our service will be guided by Human values and scientific vigor. We will also help in strengthening these values and present ourselves as an example to each member of the society. We will not be influenced by any such content and incidents around us which, serves as a breeding ground for tensions among people. We hope and try to practice each word of this oath during the fulfilment of our duties.”

I request the WHO, during emergency situations like Coronavirus outbreak this should be put out in public and appeal to all frontline workers and coronavirus warriors to accept this en mass.

( Anil Chamadia: A journalist-writer since 1980s, According to The Times of India "No armchair journalist", on 6th July 1991. Currently: Editor: Jan Media and Mass Media monthly Communication Research Journals in Hindi & English since April 2012, Chairman: Media Studies Group - http://mediastudiesgroup.org.in | Academic experience: previously professor in MGAHV (Central University), Associated with IIMC New Delhi, Now Guest Faculty Jamia Milia Islamia, University of Delhi, Publication: journalism since 1980s apart from special correspondent/writer with TVI was first 24 hours news channel in India. Contributed ten Literary short stories.)

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