Sunday, November 1, 2020

Engage community

In any modern day working of politics, administration, or even business, the foundational importance of community is an established principle. It all engenders from a community and it all returns to it. This realization has made the modern day governance structures highly sensitive on how a community thinks about, and responds to various decisions taken, and policies implemented. This importance of a community becomes even more emphatic in the times of crisis. Any administration that is oblivious of this fact betrays its poverty in terms of the understanding of the matters on ground. We have been consistently trying to drive this point home that the State administration must take the community leaders along on all the decisions and policies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Howsoever the force of the governance structures, unless there is a willful acceptance of the decision at the level of community, the results are not good. In this pandemic we have seen how decisions were taken at the top with a swiftness that couldn’t allow for any bottom level engagements. That was the compulsion of the times. But as we moved on, we should have talked to the community leaders, and asked for their input, and their cooperation in making people observe the required guidelines. That would only have made things easier for the administration, and it would have reflected in better results in our fight against this pandemic. Now that the top officials in the administration have spoken about it, and sought the cooperation of the community level leaders, it is time to go beyond making appeals. The Government can get down to the level of a colony/ward/village committee to forge a long term alliance in this battle. This might need some professional inputs, and sharing of best practices around the globe. There are organizations at international level who have designed modules on how to involve community leaders to combat a disaster. A professional touch to community engagement can yield very good results, and in a short period of time. Today the world is faced with a grave danger; not just to the systems and institutions, not just to trade and commerce, not just to travel and tour, but to the very existence of life. The scale of this crisis is global, and a matching response to it can be framed only if all the countries and the transnational institutions get together. It is not within the capacity of any single country, or any single global institution to stand up to this challenge, and mitigate all the effects around the globe. But this is the macro picture. There is another way of looking at it, and that is a bottom up approach. All the governments in the world, and all the administrative and political units in different countries, will have to come up with customized and situation specific measures to effectively counter the impact of this crisis. Looking at the COVID-19 crisis from this perspective, the administration in our State has to sit down and review the policies framed from the day one of this crisis. All the initiatives taken up till now should be put to a severe evaluation. This will make it possible for us to find out what went wrong, what could have been avoided, and where the inadequacies are. After this wider review, new policies, with fresh vigour and latest inputs from the ground, can be framed. This will definitely be more efficient, than to stick to the older format endlessly. Since, and we all know it, the COVID-19 impact will remain for a longer time, it is better if we renew our policies from time to time, and also put in place a mechanism for feedback from the ground. After the last round of total lockdown, things have now started opening up; and the Government needs to talk more openly about what are its plans up ahead. People are, right now, scared as well as confused. The spike in positive cases, more seriously from outside the quarantine centers, have instilled fear in the minds of the people. At the same time there are uncertainties about economy and livelihood. All this has to be addressed by the administration to meet this challenge.