Near the busy area where Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology is located, volunteers have stopped drivers for “improper masking,” often with proof on their camera phones. Given the lack of data protection and privacy laws in India, such photographs fall into an ethical grey area. In at least one such case, the encounter turned into a fist fight.

In other cases, commuters have complained of harassment at the hands of these volunteers.

Civil defence workers were also allegedly caught collecting bribes in exchange for not issuing a hefty fine, and were arrested by the Delhi Police.

This tussle is not restricted to Delhi, and residents in cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, and Mumbai have complained of similar confrontations with municipal marshals and city police.

No universal vaccine mandates yet

Mumbai, which has vaccinated a significant proportion of its population, has issued a vaccine mandate for indoor spaces like malls and traveling in the suburban trains. Similar rules apply in other well-vaccinated places, too.

But for most of the country, there is no such rule.

To keep social distancing in place, the Delhi government has a 50% occupancy cap for indoor places. Most restaurants and bars have quietly resumed to full seating capacity. There is also no way for the police or civil defense volunteers to enforce mask mandates inside such indoor spaces. And al fresco dining, given the vagaries of India’s weather, is not entirely feasible in most cities.

Similarly, during flights, most airlines have done away with the need for face shields and now allow food and beverages to be served. Naturally, masks come off.

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