Saturday, May 18, 2024

Coronavirus Cogitations:  Measure of maturity

Monalisa Changkija

Beautiful sunny day today ~ ah, but I also see the weather turning. We will just let Nature do as she pleases, shall we? Okay, who do I gaali lagao today? Hmmm ~ let’s start with the Government. Finally, a couple of days ago, our Government woke up to the pandemic of domestic violence ~ better late than never. Yes, help-lines for domestic violence victims were announced few years ago in Nagaland also and since the UN red-flagged increase in such incidents after lockdowns across the globe, besides the Central Government, several State Governments in India stepped up announcements. And, now finally Nagaland Government has decided to venture across the start line ~ but at a leisurely pace because while help-lines are crucial for victims and survivors, our Government remains silent about action against perpetrators of legal, under various Sections of the CrPC and IPC. This is critical to curb all forms of violence against women and children.

Also, now that our Government has done its duty of reminding us of theses help-lines, it must now inform its next tangible steps to remove perpetrators from victims’ vicinity. Normally, the victim is inevitably removed from her home, admitted into hospital for treatment of physical injuries and temporarily placed at some shelter for “counseling” and finally persuaded by family, relatives, clan, tribe, “friends” and the friendly neighbourhood Church people to return home. Normally, the victim is told: “Aya, ittu iman beya kaam korishey dey.”, “Ki kobo, ittu maiki manu laga kismet te hey ase”, “Ayale, mota khan tu keley inika kori, ho?”, “Ittu sob modhu nimitey ase, noholey tu ter beshey bhal manu ase, ami janey”, “Tumi bee na, olop maiki nishina thakibee”, “Morom para, amar chukra/bhai ke mapf koribi ~ hoi, pohelabee beshi mapf korise, ittu nimiety, please para, aru ek baar mapf koribee”. “Bachhaa khan key bhabhibee”, “Hey, chara-chari lage kotha hey nokobee, manu ki kobo? Ittu amakhan laga Christian niom tey nai, dey. Naga culture tey bhi nai, dey”. “Ishor ke hey prarthana kori thakibee, sob thik hoi jabo”, etc., etc. And so the cycle repeats and the Government remains out of sight. Domestic violence is also another name for women’s dispossession in the family, society and state.

Domestic violence is a universal crime but that doesn’t mean that we in Nagaland must quietly accept whatever is universal. Countries across the globe, including India, have put in place several stringent laws to address this problem ~ punitive action against perpetrators and rehabilitative measures for victims. In Nagaland, our Government is yet to acknowledge the existence of this crime of pandemic proportions. As for our male-centric society at large and the Church in particular ~ ki kobo na? They are still so steeped in patriarchy that battered women and children don’t exist in their machismo heaven because women and children are not full-fledged human beings in their book. As for sending male police to apprehend perpetrators ~ forget it ~ we don’t know how many of our male cops are wife and children-beaters. The silver lining is our women cops ~ but the caveat is: how aware, educated, exposed and sensitized are our women cops to women and gender issues. Women are also the worst perpetuators of patriarchy. One solution most likely to work is public-naming-and-shaming the perpetrators. But would our male-dominant Government, NGOs/Civil Societies and Church have the guts for that? Who knows how many of them are also wife-beaters and children abusers? This substantiates the need to find ways to break the silence all the more.

Why is our Government in a cover-up mode on the culprit-cops who assaulted a doctor at Wokha on April 17? Why all this hush-hushing? Why should any individual, organization and the concerned authorities try to pressurize the assaulted doctor and his family and force them to sign anything against their will? This is illegal and immoral. What is there to conceal anymore? Everyone knows what happened and who are responsible, as well as who should take the responsibility? What does our Government hope to achieve by concealing its shortcomings and failures and silencing Government employees, that too front-line workers, their families and colleagues? Surely, by now our Government should have accepted its faults, failures and shortcoming with some measure of maturity? Surely, by now our Government must know that all worms in its can have come out and are wriggling around all over the place for the world to see? Deal with that, Dear Government and don’t waste time on victimizing the people, Government employees and Front-line workers for your incompetence. Meanwhile, the Wokha administration must publicly explain the press release regarding the “amicable settlement” between all parties of the Wokha incident on April 17, which was purportedly signed by DC, Wokha, on April 22. This press release, of course, has gone viral since yesterday. In the light of our Medical Associations’ denial of any compromise, the facts, the truth, must be come to light. It is the people’s right to know and the assaulted doctor’s right to justice. As for the Medical Associations of Nagaland, stand firm ~ the people are with you.

There is also another side of why our healthcare delivery system has been in such shambles for decades. I had covered several health and medical issues and the Nagaland Doctors’ Association (NDA) agitations, since the middle of the 1980s for a decade. Besides, the sheer neglect and gross aberrations and anomalies committed by successive political leadership of the Department, what had also come across clearly are the same committed by the Department’s bureaucratized circles. This had been going on for decades ~ and continues. The pandemic has now exposed how much this Department has been short-changing the people and State of Nagaland for decades. The quality of face masks and PPEs that were ordered for Nagaland due to the pandemic speaks for itself ~ and God knows what else. As in all other Departments, this Department too is rife with rivalries, in-fighting and one-upmanship ~ and, since this Department directly deals with the lives and limbs of the public, you can work it out for yourself why our healthcare delivery system simply cannot deliver. So, what choice did our doctors at the COVID-19 Hospital, Dimapur, have but to refer our first positive case to Guwahati? Anyway, during my reporting days and ever since, what had also come across clearly was how some doctors changed overnight once they were transferred/promoted to the Directorate and became babus, forgetting the Hypocrites Oath they swore by. The outspoken, the fearless, and the faithful in the field were often vilified, demonized and discriminated. Ego, envy, jealousies and rivalries have also led some of these babu-doctors to mis-advise our non-medical bureaucrats and political bosses of the Department about Nagaland’s requirement for so many health and medical facilities and diagnostic and treatment equipment, etc. It is not for nothing some of our best doctors have resigned from Government service but thank the Lord they still continue to serve the public in the private sector. The bottom line of our failed governance-delivery system, at all levels and in all sectors, is rampant corruption ~ let’s call a spade a spade. Suffice it to say this much on this issue for today ~ I will probably be accused of demoralizing our Government employees in these Coronavirus days. Funny, nobody talks about how much the public is demoralized all these decades.

Yesterday, the head of the Special Committee COVID-19, Dimapur, inspected various places at Dimapur to check out some places, which could be converted into Observation Centres. While he expressed gratitude to various non-Naga organizations for undertaking humanitarian works at numerous relief camps and other locations, the Head has reportedly wondered where the Naga NGOs and Civil Societies have vanished during the pandemic. Finally we have a Government person wondering aloud what the public has been overtly wondering since the first days of the lockdown in March. Hopefully now our Government will think twice about giving so much paatta to all kinds of Tom, Dick and Harry organizations.

The Head had also met with the Tribal Union Chumukedima yesterday. Reportedly a leader of the said area raised certain doubts about the quarantine centres. The Head explained that these centres were not meant for suspected cases but only for people whose health status would be observed by medical professionals. This once again reiterates the need for creating awareness and education about the Coronavirus and COVID-19 amongst the people ~ this also centre-stages the education, exposure and understanding levels of our public leaders. Take for instance what happened at Shillong after the demise of Meghalaya’s first COVID-19 patient ~ things wouldn’t have come to such a pass if the tribal leaders weren’t ignorant hence biased and prejudiced. The Government, particularly DC, Dimapur, wouldn’t have to repeatedly issue the same directives of legal sanctions against village councils/colony leaders for disallowing Medical and other Official teams’ entry into certain localities ~ is another instance. Not understanding Government directives and instruction or daringly defying laws, not opening their minds, not taking the trouble to learn about diseases or anything but sticking stubbornly to only what they think they know, etc., are definitely not qualities of desirable leadership. I don’t know how well Naga society and state will be able to stomach so many unpalatable truths about us that are relentlessly crawling out of the caves and mossy stones ~ or even acknowledge them in the first place.

WHO has warned yesterday that the pandemic is not going to end in a hurry ~ in fact, WHO and several health and medical experts have warned of a second wave in a matter of time. I can’t claim any expertise on these issues but I feel that India hasn’t reached the peak as yet because testing started late in the country and we don’t know the number of infection in the interim. There is also the threat of infection by asymptomatic persons. While the GoI is slowly easing the lockdown for economic reasons, there is an opinion in the Northeast that since there have been no new positive cases reported here in the past week, the lockdown can be eased/lifted from the Northeast for economic and commercial reasons. Some Economists of the region opined so on Guwahati-based television channels. Methinks we shouldn’t be so sanguine so early in the day ~ the level of testing in the Northeast is still very low. Moreover, Northeasterners from other parts of the country will return home and we don’t know how many of them have been tested. Yes, they will be quarantined but there are also warnings of the second wave ~ and India is still not done with the first wave. The main thing is we don’t know how the virus infects humans (the source) ~ since travel history has proved not to be the only factor. Yes, everybody is suffering, especially the disadvantaged but if our Governments, particularly ours, shape up there is much they can do to alleviate the suffering of the people.

Aru beshi koboley mon ase, holebi ajitu, iman-ey, ne? Haat aru soku dhulaikeney, cinema ekta saboley mon ase ~ parileymaney.