In view of a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Bihar government on Tuesday announced a lockdown from May 5 till May 15, with guidelines that all offices, educational institutions, religious places and business establishments will be closed with the exception of essential services, including construction, agriculture and allied activities.
The Patna High Court, which on Monday rapped the government for its failure to control the COVID-19 situation and stated “enforce a lockdown or the court will order it”, on Tuesday observed that “at least one order has been complied with”.
“After having discussion with colleague ministers and officials yesterday it has been decided to impose lockdown in Bihar till May 15’ 2021. The crisis management group has been directed to execute its detail guidelines and other activities today itself”, tweeted Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Hindi on Tuesday.
The ruling BJP and JD(U) and Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal welcomed the move.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bihar chapter, too thanked Mr. Kumar for imposing a lockdown.
Later, the High Court, while continuing the hearing on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea, quipped, “at least one order has been complied with”.
On Monday, a division bench of the court, comprising justices Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Mohit Kumar Shah, said, “Enforce lockdown in the State or the court will take appropriate action on it”
‘Orders on Thursday’
On Tuesday, the court did not pass any order, as midway through the hearing, advocate general Lalit Kishore informed that the government had imposed a lockdown. The court, however, made it clear that it would pass “appropriate orders” on Thursday. It said, “the court will fail in its duty if necessary orders are not passed in the larger public interest to ensure right of life to the people in the state”.
“We have all failed. All of us feel ashamed for what we have done. Don’t make a joke of the proceedings. We cannot wait. We cannot play with the lives of the people, you may. It is an observation on us also that we have failed. This has happened only because we depended on the state officials and false assurances given by the state officials,” it observed. “You had spoken about 1,000 beds at the IGIMS [Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences] and 500 beds at the ESIC [Employees’ State Insurance] hospital, but it could not start. The PMCH [Patna Medical College and Hospital] is in shambles, the NMCH [Nalanda Medical College & Hospital] is struggling,” it stated. “The fact remains that you [government] could not manage beds in ICU for COVID-19 patients,” it added.
Earlier on Monday, the division bench of the court, observed that “it is like complete failure, as infection seems to be unabated. The government seems to be gripped in a state of indecision”. It had also said that the State needed a complete lockdown and asked Mr. Kishore to speak to the Chief Minister on it. “Either the government declares a lockdown, or the court will have to pass an appropriate order”, it had stated in an oral observation. It had directed Mr. Kishore to inform the government’s decision on Tuesday. “It is not up to the mark and no effective steps have been taken since April 15. Everything is an eyewash”, it had noted.
Earlier, the IMA and heads of four government hospitals in Patna had urged the government to impose a 15-day lockdown.
Some Opposition leaders too had sought a lockdown “to break the chain of the surge of COVID-19”.
Facing acute shortage of oxygen, beds, ant-viral drugs and manpower in hospitals Bihar so far has reported 1,07,667 active cases and 5,09,047 positive cases with 2,821 deaths 78.29% of recovery rate.