We were on the road driving from Goa to Kerala to be with my parents. This was my experience. I first applied online for entry into Kerala. Got the approval in just over three hours. In case of Goa, however, I had to apply four times to get it right and clear it. It was difficult to navigate through the website and the entire process took about 30 hours.
At the Goa border, I got down and had to show I’d proof of all family members which were then written down in a register before we were cleared to go. At the border with Karnataka, all of us had to get down for thermal screening. Names were again entered in a register and then we were cleared to move. While driving through Karnataka, we were stopped at two toll booths and asked to enter the details.
As we entered Kerala, I had to get down and show my pass following which I was given a token. I got back into the car and drove barely 500 meters when we were asked to get down and close all bags including the ones with food inside. We were directed to lower the car windows. The entire car was then sanitised. We were told not to switch on the AC before we were allowed to move to the next point. We again drove for 500 meters or so before we were asked to get down again.
This time thermal screening was done for all of us. Our permit number and the details furnished were verified online without touching any document. Contact details were taken down and then we were allowed to move to the next point. At this point we were allowed to sit in the car itself while our details were recorded online by the police. We were then cleared to resume our journey home. Within a minute or so, we received a call from my village panchayat confirming our entry.
The next call was from my village health department, checking about our health. The third call came from the collectorate, again checking our health details. As a family we agreed that it seemed we were in some foreign country. I was a peasant surprise and made us all feel so good. It was nice to see so many agencies showing their concern for our wellbeing. We reached home past midnight at 1 am.
In the morning, at 7 am itself, I got another call checking if we had arrived safely and we were given instructions about home quarantine for 14 days and to report immediately if we developed any symptom. At 9 am, a local volunteer dropped in for a chat. He said in our absence they had visited the house and checked up on my parents and their needs, ready to help with medical treatment and whatever was necessary.
During the entire journey in Kerala, we were surprised to be offered food at various points. Information had been forwarded and they were ready with food and water. Though overwhelmed, we had to decline because we had already stuffed our car with food. So, Kerala is changing into a well-managed welfare state, a state that takes healthcare, education and good governance seriously.
To my mind what has worked for Kerala is literacy, communal harmony and the fact that people hold their public and government office bearers accountable; reward them for their achievements and punish them if they err. Public representatives and government officials therefore behave and function like public servants and not rulers, masters or colonial officers.
For the rest of us Indians, we need to figure out what eventually matters. Communal supremacy, ideological pride, perception of past injustices, caste and communal prejudices or a system that promises us a good, healthy, respectable quality of life.