1 May 2020
The government of India (I think, see postscript below) has an interesting undertaking that I have neither mentioned in these entries before nor heard being taken up elsewhere in the world.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, caller tunes on phones across carrier networks have blasted state-sponsored awareness messages. The start was memorably awkward: a cough would gather the caller’s attention before social distancing was explained. The purpose of this is clear enough as is its intention—and I have no doubt it worked—but it was funny because lots of people were originally tricked into thinking that it was the person they were calling who was coughing. Hilarity ensued.
Today, a new type of caller tune sounded when I telephoned my wife. It was meaningful and a reflection of the goings on in the country. It spoke of fighting viruses and not patients or healthcare workers. It urged people not to discriminate racially or religiously and to support frontline workers like the police working to uphold the lockdown and ASHA workers (Accredited Social Health Activists) who are going street to street gathering ground reports on the status of COVID-19 in India. Hopefully, this message is as effective as the previous ones in a country that is seeing religious and communal tones being painted over the ongoing crisis.
Addendum. Shortly after this entry was published, the lockdown was extended by about a fortnight—up to 17 May—and that has brought a lot more voices against it and for ‘the economy’ all of a sudden. I gather it’s just people rushing to leave home, not that everyone followed the lockdown norms religiously.
P.S. It is perhaps important to note that this message relays in vernacular which means there is no telling if the use of caller tunes is nationwide or restricted to one state. Hopefully it is the former.