It is quite clear right now that the government is moving towards implementing the selective lockdown. While there are concerns regarding its efficacy, let's make sure that we learn from our mistakes and maintain good practices.
The failure in the earlier shutdown can be attributed to problems in developing and communicating a clear strategy lack of coordination and instruction for the field administration.
From the policy implementation perspective, the field level officials and the members of the law enforcement agencies are the real unsung heroes who made sense of a bizarre set of unclear directives, relying on their skills, and developed innovative schemes to engage the non-state actors.
The question, however, is, what can we learn from this past 'failure'? The lockdown in East Razabazar is an important pilot that needs to be analysed, understood, and even modified if decisions are taken to scale it up.
Here are few things that we should consider:
Be transparent in sharing information
If newspaper reports are to be trusted, the government had planned for the lockdown from June 1. This seems like a repetition of the same mistakes. Greater transparency is expected.
The public needs to be kept informed on what the government is planning, and how they will realise it. If that means acknowledging past mistakes, so be it. If the people don't know, they are unlikely to trust the institutions that are in charge of implementing these initiatives.
Let people panic
The risk associated with panicking and how it may jeopardise the current efforts is completely understandable. Having said that, if people don't panic, they would not understand the gravity of the situation, which we witnessed in the past.
Be clear about how the situation will be handled
Precise directives need to be shared. In case of East Rajabazar, Dhaka North City Corporation had already clarified that in the red zone, no entry or exit will be allowed, only online grocery delivery and medical support will be allowed. It is important to ensure that citizens of the area clearly understand the situation and know about the available support.
Learning from the success case-stories
During the last shutdown, many innovative practices were observed, for instance, officials in Rajshahi initiated the 'Manobotar Bazar', DC office of Mymensingh came up with various ideas to engage with people, officials in Netrokona came up with a card-based system to select the beneficiaries properly, etc. There are several other innovative practices to learn from.
It is important to understand that, in addition to developing, designing and implementing the public health strategy, a governance strategy has to be in place explaining how people in need will receive support effectively and efficiently.
The government needs to consider these best practices and modify and apply them in the lockdown areas.
Be clear about the distribution of risk, resources and information
It is not clear how many government and non-government agencies will be needed to work together to implement this lockdown. The agencies that we can expect to be involved are the law enforcement agencies (PSD), armed forces (Ministry of Defence), local government (LGD), MoWCA, MoF, MoSW, MoPA, to name a few government agencies, as well as NGOs, voluntarily organisations and the private sector.
It is important to map out which party's involvement is expected in what area, what resources they are offering and how they might be distributed for smooth operation and preventing any conflict.
More importantly, this procedural knowledge also needs to be shared with people.
Set up a coordinating body, including the field level agencies
The authority to 'control' action has to be decentralised. It is unlikely for the lockdown to work if control remains at PMO or in the secretariat. The operational structure that will be required to run the entire operation has to be a network-based approach, as opposed to a hierarchical, where the involved actors need to work collaboratively. Since it is a network-based approach, a 'Network Administrative Organisation' has to be set up at lockdown areas, where representatives from the agencies working there will be included. They will monitor the action, set and modify goals, ensure accountability and commitment to goals and inform the central government periodically.
In public policy, an easy way of categorising and understanding policy instruments is NATO, where N stands for Nodality (Information sharing), A stands for Authority (enforcement), T stands for Treasure (incentive, grants), and O stands for Organisation. In implementing lockdown, we have to follow this NATO approach:
1. Inform people and raise their awareness (Nodality),
2. Reinforce that people stay at home (Authority),
3. Support people who are in need (Treasure),
4. Design and follow and organisational set up to monitor and coordinate (Organisation).
It is important to not repeat the mistakes of the past, that is not something we can afford now.
The writer is an Associate Professor, Department of Development Studies, Dhaka University.