Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Coronavirus Cogitations: Damage control, cynosures & ends

Monalisa Changkija

Let’s get straight to the point regarding this issue about the lack of coordination between the Dimapur civil and police district administration. The District Public Relations Officer (DPRO) made a gallant attempt to damage control this perception of the lack of coordination, in a press release issued yesterday (April 6, 2020), however except for the very gullible it cuts no ice with the thinking public. We were already into a few days of the nation-wide 21-day lockdown, which was declared on March 25, when things weren’t going very smoothly here. Reports had also emerged that Dimapur would be completely shut down for 3 days from April 1 to 3, 2020. On March 31, DC, Dimapur, issued the order for total shutdown of Dimapur.

Now although I wrote this on March 30, which was published on March 31, if you remember, I said: “The list of the changes we must make is not exhausted but let’s now come to the role of the Government ~ especially vis-à-vis what happened at Dimapur today (Monday, March 30, 2020) . I have talked with the Dimapur DC and Commissioner of Police today and somehow I got the sense that there is a lack of communication and coordination between the two offices. And then, there is the Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC). A few days ago, DC, Dimapur, notified that the New Market would be closed and that vegetable, fruits and other essential commodity vendors should set up shop at designated spots. However, reportedly New Market is open and it is business as usual. How? Why? If New Market is under the jurisdiction of the DMC, surely it must explain? Surely, the state Government should investigate and ask for explanations ~ even pull it up and fix responsibility, if the explanations are unsatisfactory? If the Dimapur civil and police administration had a “war room” and both worked in tandem, what happened at Dimapur wouldn’t have happened.”

So you see, the opinion/perception that there was a lack of coordination, as well as a cohesive plan of action to fight the novel Coronavirus in the district was already in the minds of the people even before the total shutdown that began on April 1, at Dimapur ~ and it wasn’t my opinion alone. Initially, the total shutdown at Dimapur was for 3 days ~ from April 1 to 3. On March 31, I wrote: “Ok, so that’s that. Dimapur will be under total shutdown for 66 hours starting from 6 a.m. of April 1, the DC has informed today (March 31, 2020).” It was only on April 2, 2020, the Dimapur Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner of Police issued two separate orders regarding the extension of the 3-day Dimapur total shutdown to 5 days, under varied and various Sections of law. So, it really wasn’t the issuance of 2 orders issued separately by Dimapur’s civil and police administration that “the confusion” arose. In fact, there is no “confusion” but a lot of clarity in the opinion/perception that there was/is lack of coordination between the two district authorities ~ and this was/is a pre-existing opinion/perception prior to the 2 orders issued separately by the Dimapur civil and police administration on April 2, 2020.

Moreover, the Police Commissionerate was introduced in Dimapur district, the only district in Nagaland, many years ago so while the public many not be aware of the finer points of the difference between how Police administration works at Dimapur and at other districts, people are aware that that Police administration here is more empowered and that it’s different. Still, I reiterate that the Dimapur DPRO made a very valiant effort at damage control ~ no doubt, under orders from higher-ups ~ but s/he, or the higher-ups, should have checked out on the dates, when disgruntlement began vis-à-vis the execution/implementation of the 21-day nation-wide lockdown to fend off this virus. And, this disgruntlement began from Day 1 based on lived experiences ~ certainly not after the issuance of the two aforesaid orders on April 2. The Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) is a Government organ therefore it is understandable that it must project the Government and all its other organs in a good light. One only wished that the DIPR had taken a little trouble with finer details regarding this particular aforesaid press release/clarification issued yesterday ~ keeping in mind that the public too can think and do not forget recent history overnight. Actually, a small joint press briefing by the 2 district authorities would have been more advisable ~ and, perhaps more effective.

Anyway, Day 2 after the 5-day total shutdown at Dimapur ~ reports emerge that in some pockets here, Police continue to use their danda ~ under which Section of the law, I cannot say. This needs to be emphasized because the Constitution of the country hasn’t been suspended. Reports also state that in some pockets here, Police suffered at the hands of youth leaders, who were/are “enforcing” the lockdown in their colonies/neighbourhoods/villages, etc. I will leave it to you to decide what’s what.

Day 2 after the 5-day total shutdown at Dimapur ~ it is also clear that fruits, vegetables and meat are becoming rarer to find. Is this because of short supply or a hiatus in the supply chains? We still have a week left of the 21-day nation-wide lockdown to go through and there are talks that the lockdown could be extended depending on the severity of the rate of infection in the country. Despite that, I feel that there is no reason to panic as regards the availability of food as such, but there is every reason to panic as regards the spread of infection, if we do not continue to take care, stay home and stay safe. So, even if the lockdown is lifted and/or restrictions eased, we are owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, our state and our country and the world at large to follow all instruction of fend off the virus and ensure that we conduct ourselves conscientiously and responsibly.

Let me end here today with an anecdote that is said to have happened many, many years ago at Kohima. Legend has it that one fine day a group of young entrepreneurs called on a very senior official at his office chamber. Being a very affable person, this official was very happy to receive such an illustrious delegation. But also being afflicted with verbal diarrhea, he gibbered on and on and as is the wont of anyone, who gibbers endlessly and without any interruption, he got carried away, especially holding forth on what treasures they were to Nagaland and ended his oration thus: “You are the eyesore of entire Nagaland”. Obviously, he meant “cynosure”, which actually rhymes quite well with “eyesore”, if you make allowances for our pronunciations. The young delegation kept a straight face and managed to look grateful for such a “compliment”.

Ok, another one. Legend also has it that many, many years ago a note from a Cabinet Minister to a bureaucrat’s written communication on office matters stated: “For your top, see my bottom”. Meanwhile, please do your best to fight this virus “from your end” ~ another famous, and frequently used, “official” terminology from which there appears to be no cure so far ~ just like the novel Coronavirus. I don’t expect you to roar with laughter but perhaps a little Mona Lisa smile ~ or a smirk, if you so prefer?