Mask up or get fined: Delhiites say ₹2,000 penalty is OK, but not sufficient

The pandemic continues to have a steady presence in the Capital, and assumingly after observing a sea of people crowding public places, that too without wearing masks, it has now been announced that a fine of ₹2,000 will be levied instead of a penalty of ₹500, for those caught without masks. But, the question that this arises is: are fines enough to stop people from being lax or do we need stricter measures to control this surge of Covid-19?

Pulkit Chhabra, a resident of Shalimar Bagh, says the increase in fine will definitely increase mask compliance but Delhi needs to do much more to tackle the alarming situation. “People have lowered their guards and are behaving like the pandemic is over! And what’s the use of wearing masks if half the population doesn’t wear it properly People roam around with their masks down to the neck, and pull them up only when cops are nearby. This defeats the whole purpose of wearing masks in public… it has become like wearing a customary helmet while riding a two wheeler, to avoid challan,” he adds.

Many denizens like Chhabra are of the opinion that fines aren’t sufficient as non-monetary penalty has become the need of the hour. “I think there needs to be more vigilance on the ground, to ensure social distancing norms are adequately followed in crowded areas. Deployment of more Police is needed to keep people in check,” says Anysha Kumar, a third year student of St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. “There are so many people who can pay the fine and get away with it. We need to have non-monetary penalties to straighten people who can afford to pay these fines,” she says, highlighting the need for better provisions to avoid people from stepping out for essentials.

But Greater Kailash based Pooja Bhateley concurs that the steep fine will indeed make people more cautious. “I was charged ₹500 when I forgot to wear my mask in public, and that made me careful for the next few days. So a fine of ₹2,000 will definitely make me think again since it’s not a small amount for sure,” she says, adding that personal vigilance is need of the hour. She shares, “I genuinely forgot my mask at home, but I know people who have stopped wearing masks since they say it’s inconvenient to them. Human error is inevitable, but in Delhi, the repercussions for these lapses can be huge. We all need to be more careful, and ideally step out only when necessary, and definitely not without masks!”

And some denizens feel that it’s hard to enforce rules when enforcement agencies themselves don’t abide by them. Aman Saxena, a Delhi-based lawyer, says, “Everyday I travel from Faridabad to Delhi, and rarely do I see police officers wearing masks. Near various markets, I have seen policemen sitting in small groups and talking. There is laxity all around… There was a strict compliance initially when fines were being levied, but people are now congregating in huge numbers in clubs, markets and public places, and barely a handful of them are being pulled up for not following the norm. We certainly need more measures to deal with the pandemic than simply higher fines for violations.”

Author tweets @bhagat_mallika

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