Coronavirus Cogitations:  Let’s make history

Monalisa Changkija

Finally Dimapur stands along with the rest of the country lockdown-wise from today. You will remember that for the past 5 days, we not only lived through the nation-wide lockdown but also a 5-day total shutdown here ~ so we were actually standing above the rest of the country in this fight against the Coronavirus for 5 days and all thanks to the Dimapur district civil and police administration. Thankfully, till the time of writing this, there were no reports of people coming out in large numbers rioting for food and other essential commodities. That was something a lot of people had feared. See, we can be good when we want to be. But there were also reports that in many places here people, who had come out to purchase food, were not maintaining social distance. This is a two-way street ~ while the public must practice social distancing it is also imperative for the district civil and police administrations, along with all the organizations that are assisting it, to enforce social distancing during shopping hours. Well, we leave it to the district administration to self-assess its planning, implementation and preparedness for what has, or hasn’t, happened, and what may, or may not, happen in the days to come ~ since it seems to be so touchy and over-sensitive to the slightest criticism.

What hasn’t happened today was the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. Oh, they were there in some places in the town and suburbs but in less than the first hour, everything was bought. Were people queuing up at these outlets before the shopping time of 9 a.m.? Not that anyone would blame them but surely this would also mean that shoppers were out of their homes during the lockdown period before 9 a.m., wouldn’t it?  Anyway, let me tell you that for those of us, for whom fruits and vegetables consist 80% to 90% of our diet ~ though we aren’t vegetarians ~ deprivation of fresh fruits and vegetables are causing a totally different kind of withdrawal syndrome. We will survive it ~ but hopefully this deprivation wouldn’t cure us of our fruit and vegetable addiction otherwise Doctors will be presented with another set of problems. I wish I could put an emoji here.

This is the season for so many fruits, herbs and vegetables (including our indigenous varieties) grown in plenty in Dimapur district, and elsewhere in the state, but we have no access to them for obvious reasons. What a waste! Is there some strategy our district administration, even our Agriculture and Horticulture Departments, including the Agriculture Production Commission, could think of to procure locally available fruits, vegetables and herbs to ensure supply to neighbourhood shops and markets? In a matter of time, such and other strategies would have to be drawn up to address and redress not only Dimapur’s but also the entire state’s economic situation after the lockdown is over. Hopefully, the state Government has already started working out strategies to rebuild our already fragile  ~ and now shattered ~ agriculture and allied activities, including animal husbandry, since they are our main sources of food and income. This is would also mean strategies for supply chains, transport, marketing and storage facilities, etc. Yes, it would be easy for the state Government to give subsidies to these sectors but that would only be a Band-Aid measure. As you know, subsidies by themselves do not make sustainable economic development. What would change Nagaland’s economic profile would be for the state Government to take this opportunity to reconstruct, revamp, revive and rejuvenate our agricultural and allied sectors right from scratch starting with policies, planning, programmes, implementation, execution, monitoring, supervision and marketing, etc. Our Government could also strategize on motivating our educated and uneducated unemployed to gainfully employ themselves to bring about resurgence in these and many more sectors to build our economy; as well as execute a well-drawn and committed policy to make as many household as possible food producers. Let’s turn the adversity of Coronavirus into a privilege of prosperity.

My concern is also for thousands of household, who have been facing hardship to procure food for their pets and other domestic animals. True, now a lot of groceries sell pet food but for those who are rearing domestic animals for family consumption and as a source of income, more importantly self-sustenance, these are heart-breaking times. Isn’t there some measures our district administration, and of course the state Government, can take to address this issue? With meat and fish production and sales bound to decrease during the 21-day lockdown, somehow our concerned authorities would need to urgently do something to ensure that our pets and other domestic animals do not perish and we do not become the losers. In any case ~ whatever animal, human lives are bound with theirs, more so in a mainly meat-eating society as ours. And now, those of you who have no compunctions about coveting, and often succumbing to covetousness, people’s pets, especially now with shortage of meat, please resist and desist. Please understand the deep bonds between pet-owners and pets. Please understand that pets are integral members of the family.

Nowhere in the world were people physically, mentally and psychologically prepared to be confined to their homes. There are lockdown violators in all countries and all authorities are facing tough times to keep people at home and enforce the lockdowns successfully. It’s not as if our people are worse than other people. It’s not as if only our people are undisciplined, disobedient and obdurate. All people are same anywhere in the world. The Coronavirus situation is totally new for all law-enforcing agencies as much as it is for all peoples. What would make lockdowns successful is for both the law-enforcing agencies and the people to be equally matured and responsible. What would also make lockdowns successful is for all Governments and district administrations to make cohesive, well-coordinated, practical and feasible policies and strategies to enforce and execute the lockdown but at the same time ensure that people have access to food and essential commodities. Obviously, it then stands to reason that these policies, strategies, orders and notifications are thoroughly enforced and executed with no, or little, scope for hitches and glitches. Clearly, here the need for organizational abilities cannot be over-emphasized. And, let’s admit that not everyone is born with organizational abilities ~ degrees or no degrees, Government service or no Government service. Besides, this is no time and occasion for power plays ~ not even PR exercises.

True, Nagaland like most states in India face severe shortage of human resources in the Police Department hence our cops work round the clock, across the state, throughout the year, but especially now during this lockdown period ~ which, of course, doesn’t give them any right to exercise extra-ordinary powers. We are all unanimous about that. Now, since we are facing an extraordinary time, our Police Department, particularly our Home Minister, can, in fact, must, think of recalling a good number of police personnel from security duty, except only for the most imperative ones mandated by Government security protocol. Some of this security coverage can be minimized, can’t they? Moreover, there are also a good number of cops that are detailed for domestic chores including domestic animal rearing in the official and private homes/farms of senior serving and retired senior Police officers. This is definitely the time for the state Government to once again prove its commitment to the fight against the novel Coronavirus. This is also definitely the time for the state Government to be unambiguous that its top-most priority is public safety/security and public health, especially at this time. Punjab has done it; inarguably Nagaland can also do it ~ and do it better.

Our vulnerable sections continue to be in need. Please continue to heed to their plight and give ~ in terms of cash or kind. Besides the district administrations, there are still those numerous organizations and groups of Good Samaritans that are providing the necessary wherewithal to the needy in all districts, through whom you can contribute to support our vulnerable sections and help them fend off hunger. Also, please continue to follow the rules of good personal and public hygiene ~ the Coronavirus threat isn’t over and won’t be for a long time, even after the lockdown period is over. Please take responsibility for yourself and your loved ones and continue to stay home and stay safe ~ unless you need to go get food and other emergencies. Come on folks, during this lockdown period let’s also give a break to our cops too ~ whatever their shortcomings. Let’s also reduce our health and medical personnel’s stress and tension levels. Let’s make history for Nagaland and be one of the states in the country without a single positive case here.