Monday, March 1, 2021

Coronavirus Cogitations:   Brother’s Keeper

Monalisa Changkija

Our Chief Secretary’s order, issued today (May 2, 2020), is a wise decision. Basically it says that all lockdown guidelines, as ordered on April 20 last, would be still enforced till further notice. For one, the lockdown has been extended for another 2 weeks across the nation although there has been considerable easing as compared to the early period of the lockdown. True, several Governments have further eased the lockdown mindful of the situation in their states so this means that preparations for gradual easing of lockdown had already begun probably since mid April. Perhaps, ours hadn’t or is being cautious. See, it is easy for any Government to ease the lockdown but it takes a lot to put in place numerous preventive and precautionary measures. As they say, the devil lies in the details. So, any Government can issue orders but these orders would have to be implemented and enforced for which a lot of planning, deployment of human resources, readying the required infrastructure, etc. are required. So as not to create unwanted situations on the ground, as we saw in the early days of the lockdown, it is better that our Government not does make haste and the consequent waste. Say for instance traders, shopkeepers, retailers, etc., charging exorbitant prices to which our Finance Commissioner says the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) are being directed to warn traders on the same. But do our DCs have the human resources to monitor each and every shopkeeper in the state? Merely issuing orders and directives is inadequate ~ unless accompanied by proper implementation and enforcement. Yes, district administrations do act on the complaints received from the public but that’s in very small numbers compared to the greater numbers of scalping rampant now. So, plain common sense dictates that our Government gives much thought to the next stage of easing the lockdown.

Secondly, easing the lockdown now also entails the facilitation of our people, who wish to return home ~ not just catering to the needs of the public at Nagaland. That requires good planning, logistics, human resources, making transportation available, etc. Such an exercise must not be done in haste because the dangers of the virus still persist. So the Government needs to work out how to bring our people home, ensure their health status and at the same time safeguard the health of those at home. This is very crucial because our healthcare delivery system remains fragile and can take only this much pressure. If not anybody else, the Government is now only too aware that our healthcare delivery system may collapse if put under great pressure ~ and it also knows only too well why. Therefore, it will not make haste and jeopardize public health. Consider the fact that out of our total population of about 20 lakhs, probably not even 3000-5000 people have been tested. So, we don’t even know if the virus is already present here. Keep in mind that travel history and contact with an infected person are not the only means to get infected. We cannot afford to underestimate the insidious ways of the virus.

Thirdly, let’s take an honest look at ourselves ~ at our undisciplined ways, our defiance of authority, law and order ~ more importantly the rule of law, our khushi-khushi ways, our total abandonment of common sense, disrespect for one another and insensitivity to public good. Like it or not, we are a people who wants to do only what we want to do ~ never doing what we need to do and what’s good for us. The very fact of our defiance at lockdown norms, social distancing, etc. speaks for our immature mentality and behavior. We still don’t get it, do we, about how formidable the virus is against our puny bodies and how destructive it is against our small fragile communities? And couple that with our woefully fragile health and other infrastructures ~ plus, now our Government even had to levy tax on tax simply because the Exchequer is emptied. Of course, this could mean that our Government doesn’t expect the Centre to bail us out in the near future ~ after all the Centre had already released Rs. 170 crore to fight COVID-19 in addition to the Rs. 356 crore released to Nagaland recently. Then some funds had also been allotted under the Disaster Management funds, as also by the NEC, nohoi? Anyway, the point is that we are broke ~ as usual ~ and we lack the wherewithal to deal with health and other issues that will arise due to the pandemic so our best bet is to stay home and stay safe. You see, if the pandemic hasn’t brought it home to us, we will never know how divested, dispossessed, disempowered and disenfranchised we are. That’s our reality. Let’s face it.

Fourthly, let us also concede that at the most we only had a semblance of governance all these decades so it is also a testing time for our Government to deliver governance. These things take time ~ Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will Nagaland be built in a day, heck Nagaland isn’t built even in 57 years. The fact is without gracefully accepting the generous gift of Father Time, we cannot achieve anything ~ in the same token we also cannot achieve anything if we wantonly abuse the gifts of Father Time. So yes, while we hold our successive Governments responsible for failure to deliver good governance, we must also hold ourselves responsible for impeding good governance ~ by securing our petty little vested interests, by discounting and ignoring the greater good of the greatest number of people and by generally not being our Brother’s Keeper. If we continue this way ~ and it looks like we are not in a hurry to mend our ways ~ it only stands to reason that our Government should not hasten the process of unlocking the lockdown.

Yes, our Government will face much clamour to ease the lockdown but it should not allow itself to get lost in its din. As a collective we never knew what was good for us ~ it will take a lot of time for us to know that. I am not suggesting that our Government knows what is good for us ~ it hadn’t shown that forte and proclivity as yet. But it has the moral and constitutional obligation to do what is best for us. And here we have to rely on our Government to do what is best for us ~ although we may all have exaggerated opinions about knowing better. The thing here is that it is our Government’s mandate and responsibility to do what’s best for the people. Now they need to work on that for which they will require time. So, whether our Government or we, the people, let’s not allow our impatience cause our downfall. As for our hungry and needy people, that is also our Government’s responsibility.

I don’t know how well the Government notification on online and video lessons through Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) is doing. I have heard discontentment of some parents, who have not been able to connect to DD and/or AIR. This underscores how direly we need to brush up our various communications systems and structures in the state. It is very well for the privileged in urban areas to sing paeans of the technological wonders available at our finger tips but for the vast majority of our people in rural areas, it is still an unattainable dream. Today, the privileged in urban areas are halleluiahya-ing our ability to do business and earn online but our most disadvantaged children are still denied and deprived of the privilege of basic learning online. Besides our Government, our IT wizards must put their heads together to technologically connect our disadvantaged people to the rest of the world ~ wherever they may be. I was thinking teaching online could be a great way to resolve the perennial woes that beset our education system, especially school education. Teaching online could enable us to do away with unsatisfactory school infrastructure and even more unsatisfactory teachers and teaching. On the other hand, children need the socialization process and so many other vital requisites of holistic education that schools must provide ~ or ought to. This issue requires much cogitation ~ we cannot jump into whatever sounds nice with our eyes wide open. Nevertheless, it may serve us well if our education authorities give a serious thought to this to improve learning in Nagaland.

Meanwhile, kotha mani keney thakibee. Use this time to imbibe the virtue of patience. And remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare ~ slow and steady wins the race. Also, think about the lahe-lahe Akhomiyas ~ lahe-lahe keney, terkhan beshi dur jai ase dey.