July 7, 2020
Udhagamandalam: In this hour of crisis, he is just a nameless number. A number on the list of persons infected by the deadly Corona virus in the Nilgiris district. However,for the past several days, he has been the talk of the town and the target of a great deal of ire. He is the one adverted to as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of a private company at Yellanhalli near here and blamed for the sorry state of affairs on the Covid-19 front.
Sitting safe at the beginning of the crisis, with the district Collector Ms.J.Innocent Divya, taking proactive steps like blocking entry to visitors, the Nilgiris had, in the weeks following, had only to deal with sporadic cases triggered by a religious congregation in Delhi and an outbreak in Koyambedu.
What followed, in the form of a spread, set in motion, by the PRO,is still continuing to hold the district in a grip of panic. With the number of persons getting infected through secondary contact with the PRO continuing to rise, a number of villages connected with his
company like Attakolai, Kekkatty, Mukkatty Jagathala and Ketti Palada are forced to put up with a lot of restrictions. Hundreds of employees and those they have come into contact with are being tested and no one seems to know when this spread is likely to cease.
Heightening the sense of fear and anger is, action against the individual, remaining conspicuous by its absence and no sign of remorse from him or his employees.
“The virus super-spreader controversy sheds light on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ancillary Public Relations”, said sociologist Siddhartha Krishnan, who heads ATREE Bengaluru’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) on human subjects research ethics. “CSR is about management of social and environmental risks of company activities, and charitable and ethical practices. A company’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) communicates information about these aspects to the public” he maintained. “But the PRO in question allegedly withheld information on his symptoms,and instead spread the virus to
colleagues and their contacts. The PRO’s risky behaviour, and the management’s possible indifference raise serious ethical questions around corporate responsibility and public relations,he opined.
Speaking to The Covai Post here on Tuesday,the Superintendent of Police,the Nilgiris Dr.V.Sasi Mohan said that, under various sections of the law dealing with diseases, action can be initiated against individuals who harm others through their negligence. However,in the case of the PRO, no action has been taken so far because there has not been any complaint. As regards the moral aspect of the issue, “I cannot say anything”,he added. Meanwhile the police are doing everything possible to ensure that the people remain safe. Village committees have been formed to maintain a vigil. Security at check posts has been tightened. “Now no one can get into the Nilgiris clandestinely”, he asserted. So far about 7500 cases have been booked for various Covid related violations.