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Ramadan is nearing its end and the Eid ul Fitr expectation is growing by the day. The Eid holidays are a subject of speculation and heartburn every year, but this is more so this year.
Following reasons are contributing to the confusion and bewilderment.
Eid ul Fitr is an occasion when everyone working away from home wishes to go home and join the family in celebrations. The enthusiasm around our Eid is no different from Christmas and Chinese New Lunar Year. The greatest movement of people takes place on Chinese New Lunar Year. Their date changes every year but is known months in advance. People book bus/train/plane ticket many months in advance as it costs less and avoids the risk of not getting a ticket even at higher price later. Pakistanis in Pakistan and abroad make every effort to reach home for Eid ul Fitr. The same rush however, may not be seen on the occasion of Eid ul Azha.
As people travel from far and wide, they need a reasonable number of days for traveling and staying with families. The fact is well known but is never considered by the governments. It stands to reason that some other holidays may be abolished to have more days for Eid, but it is not done. People scramble, grumble and complain and swear upon the decision makers who do not facilitate Eid celebration. It has been happening every year without change.
Transport is under enormous pressure before and after Eid day. All means of transport are overfilled and overcrowded due to rush. Since our Eid is dependent upon moon sighting, it leads to one day margin in addition. As we observe, the number of people working away from home has grown many times. Due to decline in agriculture and concentration of industries in the cities, people are forced to leave home and work away from home.
The successive governments have also played the game of delaying the announcement of Eid holidays as much as they can. This adds to speculation and more swearing.
This year, Eid ul Fitr is coming at a time when COVID is peaking. More infections and more deaths are being reported. The situation in neighboring India is no less than a huge calamity and it raises even greater concerns. The government is desperately trying to clamp down restrictions and the people are still trying to defy rules even if means compromising their own and others’ safety.
The NCOC has been saying/threatening for several days that there will be total clampdown from 8th to 16th May. All markets, offices, businesses, transport etc. shall remain shut down during these days. Tourist spots shall also remain closed, and no traffic shall be allowed. On one hand, people are scared of long shut down and on the other hand, many are making plans for the long holidays. Generally, there is an air of celebrative expectation despite huge scare of COVID.
The government took more days to finally announce holidays from 10th to 15th May. State Bank of Pakistan issued notification for banks to the same effect.
Yesterday, after a delegation met the honorable Prime Minister, IK announced that Pharma Industry shall be exempted from the mandatory lockdown. It is not new, because Pharma had always been exempted throughout COVID so far.
The Pharma owners appear to be rejoicing about it, but the Pharma workers are confused as to what would it mean practically. Will they work, when everything else will be closed?
There are some questions that need to be looked at in this regard.
- Pharma production units need staff in all departments, Production, Quality, Warehouse, Engineering and Services to do production. Considering that public transport will be shut down, how will the staff commute to and from the production unit?
- The availability of materials is integral to production. Markets, Printing/Packaging industry, transport shall be closed which will restrict the production to whatever may be available, if at all it is.
- Most of the Pharma companies are producing non-essential drugs and few days closure does not make any difference to patients.
- Pharma market does not go dry quickly due to three buffers. First buffer is the company warehouse, second buffer is distributors’ warehouses, and the third buffer is retail pharmacies. Pharmacies are always exempted and should be so because they are the ones who provide medicines to patients. 2-3 days closure of Pharma plants or distributors has no bearing on the availability of medicines.
- The purpose of lockdown is to force people to stay at home, reduce interaction and therefore exposure for everyone. Exemptions like this at this time defeat that purpose.
The issue at hand is not the presence or absence of short or long holidays, the issue is how the whole thing is handled.
People at the helm of affairs must get wise, think beyond narrow interests and take decisions which are rational, logical and purposeful.
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