Reports of state officials erecting walls at borders tie in with reservations expressed by many chief ministers over allowing inter-state movement even after the nationwide lockdown is lifted. Such actions stem from mentalities that the Covid-19 infection is largely imported even when questions abound over officials doing enough to curb local community transmissions.
Choking borders is not just a death blow to trade and freight movements. It is an affront to the human rights of people living in border areas who often get better medical facilities and earn their livelihoods on the other side. Those on borderlands also end up paying a higher price for goods and services because of the harassment. Objections remain even a month later towards allowing migrant labourers to return to their states. A cost-benefit analysis of such decisions will reveal that the cure is proving to be far worse than the disease itself.
Such walling off of borders reflects the fear psychosis that officials, not to mention ordinary citizens, have succumbed to. Paralysed by fear, district administrations and state governments are resorting to irrational measures. Though the lockdown is ending soon, there remains little clarity about opening of borders. Livelihoods and dignity of citizens must take priority again and borders must turn sufficiently porous again. The emphasis must instead shift to “do gaj ki doori”, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps exhorting.