Citizens Demand Action: Over 1,800 COVID-19 Petitions Filed Online
The barrage of COVID-19 petitions seen on Change.org is higher in number than any people’s movement in recent times
The complete 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, 24 March, has left many wondering what they are going to do sitting at home. Some are relying on Netflix while others are thinking about picking up a new skill, but, then there are those who have been utilising this time to take it on the Internet and use its superpowers by starting various petitions about what's described as a pandemic now ie COVID-19 and over government's outbreak contention plans.
In what can be described as a 'movement', more than 1,800 petitions have been started on Change.org, compelling the platform to create a dedicated page called 'India Fights Covid-19'. This page features around 34 top petitions which have observed a total of over 8 lakh signatures.
The barrage of petitions seen on the page is higher in number in comparison to any people's movement in recent times.
The 1,800 petitions about COVID-19 have been started in just one month, most of them raising some of the most crucial requests such as those for protective equipment for the healthcare workers, more screening and enhanced facilities at quarantine centres and hospitals.
On the said 'movement' page, Change.org features the top 20 campaigns with most pressing issues and concerns. Most of these petitions are addressed to the PM, Health Secretary and Health Minister of the country.
These top petitions have generated an average of 50,000 signatures each.
How much impact these petitions will make on the government remains to be seen but they definitely increase the awareness about the deadly, novel coronavirus on the internet and stand testament to the fact that citizens are trying to do their bit.
1. 'Expand Screening'
A petition that has generated more than 70,000 signatures as of Friday, 27 March, requests the government to "expand screening to stop COVID-19 from becoming an epidemic".
This was also tweeted by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
The petition highlights:
“Currently, only 52 government facilities and 50-60 private labs are conducting the tests. They can’t serve a country of over 1.3 billion people.”
It further says, "If we truly want the spread of Covid-19 to be controlled and contained, which, the ICMR says is possible if we act RIGHT NOW, then drastic steps are needed."
2. 'Provide Proper Safety Equipment to All Health Workers'
Another pertinent petition with over 2,00,000 signatures requests the government to provide adequate protection for health care workers such as nurses, doctors, support staff, etc.
Recognising how these people face more risk than any of us, the petitioner highlights how the masks provided to them are of poor quality.
The petition further says:
“While we are working from home and can cut all our physical contact to stay safe, health workers do not have that option. They have put their lives and health in danger for the country and its citizens. If not for them and their service, we cannot remain safe.”
This petition also recorded a response from Indian Medical Association National President and Rajya Sabha MP Dr Santanu Sen.
In his response, Sen said, "This is the time for the government to get its act together and take all necessary steps to protect its front line workers."
3. 'Improve Hygiene Condition of Quarantine Centers'
This petition filed by an Indian student who was studying in the US and returned back early amid coronavirus scare highlights her own experience of the government quarantine. She requests the government for better hygiene conditions as she narrates her own tale of witnessing dirty washrooms, no hand sanitizers, and no timely food.
In her petitions, which has observed over 80,000 signatures, she says:
“The most difficult part of the night was not being able to use the washroom. I felt tortured, like a prisoner. When I demanded that we should at least be given water to drink, they asked us to drink directly from toilet taps which had no water in them.”
Do Online Petitions Help?
While the idea of taking a cause or a movement to the internet for a better society, policies, and services sounds really fascinating and reflects the good intentions of citizens who want to participate, it is important to ask if these petitions even work? Do they make the desired impact? Or they are just for slacktivism?
If we look at the end-results of some of the previous petitions on Change.org, we will notice, it's not for nothing. Many petitions, including a woman asking for safer schools in Karnataka and another asking Uber to do background checks of its drivers, got a strong response from the crowd which signed the petitions and later, from the media and concerned authorities. While, it is difficult to say that a petition alone brought these changes, but eventually the demands were heard serving the very purpose.
Many of these petitions are hugely shared on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, sometimes by some politicians and recognised faces, which gives a movement a boost.
The latest example of this is Indian Medical Association National President and Rajya Sabha MP Dr Santanu Sen responding to two petitions which ask for better protective gear for the doctors to combat COVID-19. So far these petitions have registered over 2,00,000 signatures each.
Responding to one of the petition, Sen said:
“It seems there is a complete confusion among the manufactures of PPEs. The same needs to be addressed at the earliest. Clapping in appreciation alone won’t work. We need to walk the talk and truly ensure that medical professionals can do their work without any fear.”
While we wait for the implementation of some suggested steps on the ground by the government to make the situation better for our medical workers, social media continues to buzz with similar demands and reshares of these petitions.
As coronavirus envelopes the whole world in anxiety and worry, here is hoping that citizens, while sitting at home in self-isolation, continue to ask for better policies and changes, and their participation brings awareness and amendments.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
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