Coronavirus Cogitations: Cheerio

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Monalisa Changkija

A post on a friend’s Facebook wall informs that Assam’s Chief Minister held a tele-conference with a group of academicians from various Universities of Assam on the challenges posed by the current situation. The post says the main points of his address are as follows:

* To perceive the crisis spawned by Covid19 as the birth pangs of a “new Assam”.

* The guidance and advice of teachers and intellectuals as pathfinders will be crucial in this process, even beyond the education sector.

* As Human Resource creators and social leaders, teachers will have to create awareness and instill responsibility in fighting Covid19.

* Assam Government is in the process of finalizing a comprehensive approach to tackle the unprecedented challenges to the education sector, which will involve inputs from Economists too.

* The fight against Covid19 should not be seen as official response but as a people’s response and every suggestion towards it is most welcome.

The academicians also suggested the need to find better solutions to overcome the challenges of “digital teaching’, the need to fine-tune the Semester System, remedy problems faced by the students coming from diverse backgrounds, etc. The post further says the Chief Minister promised to carry forward the conversation and take it to some meaningful productive results.

 I am also informed that Meghalaya’s Chief Minister had also discoursed with Economists of the North Eastern Hills University (NEHU) on strategies to revitalize his state’s economy, which was devastated by the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Both the Chief Ministers have inarguably proved their mettle when the going got tough and carried the people of their respective states on their shoulders. While some may say that they are accruing political mileage from the pandemic crisis, somehow their body language, when you see them on television, doesn’t quite come across that way. They appear to be genuinely taking their job and responsibilities very seriously. Assam’s Medical Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma has also proved his administrative acumen by taking firm charge of the entire healthcare delivery system of his state. It must be appreciated that he has completely stopped his political and communal haranguing and has totally focused on public health. The team work of Assam’s Chief Minister and Medical Minister is something other Northeastern states could think of emulating. Team work doesn’t seem to be happening much in Meghalaya ~ the very palpable physical exhaustion of the Meghalayan Chief Minister indicates that. It must also be appreciated that the aforesaid leaders of Assam and Meghalaya are not preaching to the choir ~ they are regularly communicating with their people, sticking to the point. It is also very noticeable that they are hands-on kind of leaders, who do not out-source their jobs to bureaucrats.

So it is only in keeping with their rationale that they have initiated the much needed dialogues with academicians and I am sure also with several other experts and experienced people, who know their states inside out. And it helps that these leaders are well educated and know their subjects thoroughly. I doubt whether Assam could have shaped up its healthcare delivery system to what we see now in so short a time if the Medical Minister wasn’t a Doctor himself. The need for expertise in the Executive cannot be over-emphasized. Secondly, we also need people in the Executive to know when to stop being a politician and start being a Minister ~ taking charge of his/her Ministry. These are some of the leadership qualities of politicians most needed in our political system and structure. Knowledge, wisdom, merit, maturity and humility of political leaders are what make some democracies more vibrant. When the political leadership thinks that knowledge and wisdom exist only within the confines of political and bureaucratic circles, the quality of governance deteriorates. When there is no dialogue with the people, democracy is handicapped. We have seen several democracies suffering much damage because electoral politics have sidelined and derided knowledge, wisdom, expertise and experience ~ in the process, excellence is the casualty. The tragedy is that the people do not realize this ~ nor are we willing to listen to sense. So, in a way, I guess the people get the Government we deserve.

I must also mention Mizoram’s Chief Minister, who is also leading from the front and has vowed on national television to bring about an agricultural revolution, besides boosting several other sectors, in his state. Talking of Mizoram, I noticed that videos of its disciplined traffic, as well as disciplined practice of the lockdown norms, social distancing, has been widely shared on social media and everybody is going gaga over the Mizos and their disciplined public conduct. But why is it that we don’t think of emulating such good example? Mizos are also tribal people like us and we have so much in common but why and how is it that we haven’t been able to achieve what they have ~ and not just in tangible terms? The other day a friend in the media lamented that he was trying very hard to get Nagaland’s Chief Minister on his talk show but has failed so far. I had a lot to say but I didn’t ~ I just laughed. What else could I have done? If a man doesn’t want to go public on national television and face impromptu questions, he just doesn’t want to go public ~ he could, would, probably, have very good reasons. We can only guess some of his reasons.

Be that as it may, let us now focus on what our Government needs to do to make online classes accessible to 100% of our students across Nagaland. Yes, it is unacceptable that most of our children in our disadvantaged rural and urban areas and from deprived backgrounds are being excluded from online classes. But can we move on from lamentations and make things possible for them by impressing upon our Government that it has to get moving and moving fast? Just as all our trade bodies, political parties and tribal bodies have registered their displeasure with the COVID-19 cess and have demanded a roll-back, can the same bodies, including civil societies, especially working in the education sector, our Churches, women and youth, as also student, teacher, school and college associations, unions and organizations exert the necessary pressure on our Government to address and redress this unacceptable lacunae in reaching lessons to our students? Can we all rise up together to awaken our Government and make it roll up its sleeves? We can no longer allow any more discrimination, denial and deprivation happen to our children just because our Government has been asleep for so long.

From several accounts, the conditions of our Government quarantine centres are said to be deplorable. And, some inmates saying otherwise outside these centres in some PR videos need to be independently verified ~ so don’t jump to hasty conclusions as yet. Wait till the media physically verifies the conditions of these centres and report ~ if the district administrations allows. But if it doesn’t allow entry to the media into these centres, it couldn’t be only because of the health concerns of media persons (oooh, the Government loves us so much)? Some kala in the dal? I await permission from our district administration to enter these centres ~ no response to my call or my Whatsapp message as yet.

I decided to write this column only till April 14 but since the lockdown was extended to May 3, I decided to continue till May 3. Today being May 3, this will be my last column. I know, the lockdown will continue till May 17 however I must say adieu for the moment. There is a lot more that needs to be said and fear not, I haven’t ran out of steam as yet but I need to twiddle my toes and contemplate on how many Angels can dance on the tip of the needle for a few days. After that, there are several other journeys waiting for me to embark on. We are also eagerly waiting for the day we can resume our print edition, which will take some more days depending on numerous factors. Even after resumption of our print edition and daily editorials, you will continue to find us exactly where you read us now at nagalandpage.com, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thank you for your loyalty to Nagaland Page, thank you for reading us and this column. Nagaland Page has been at your service for 21 years ~ we celebrate our 21st anniversary on May 29, 2020 ~ and God willing, we are dedicated to serve you from hereon also. Without you, Readers, Advertisers and Well-Wishers, we don’t have an existence. So please continue to read and support us by your patronage and in your prayers. Also, in this column I must have surely hurt the feelings of a lot of people ~ well, egos actually ~ particularly of the Government. Well, I will not apologize because you have to do your job and I have to do mine. I also have my responsibility to my people, society and state as a woman, mother, poet, writer, journalist and a senior citizen ~ in fact, because of the numerous hats I wear, I owe it to my people, society and state to be un-silenced. Be sure I will find other ways to remain un-silenced. Today, on Press Freedom Day, as a journalist, I celebrate it with a clear conscience and I hope you celebrate your day with a clear conscience too.

Please continue to take care, stay home and stay safe ~ the pandemic is far from over. Please be responsible Keeper of your Brother and Sister ~ there is no other way out of this pandemic. Ah, one more thing ~ while it is a matter of time before a vaccine to cure COVID-19 is discovered and made available in the market it is definite that nobody has ever or will ever invest time, energy and resources for a vaccine to cure stupidity ~ think about it.

Cheerio