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The novel Coronavirus has emphatically reiterated the gaping holes and fissures in our health care delivery system all over again ~ which ought to shame our Government. And, even if not publicly, there is a sense that the Government is feeling this shame and is reeling under it. It would have been some kind of balm for the public if our Government had publicly conceded to its lapses, but then that would be expecting too much. For one, our Government is totally male-dominated and as we know only too well, Naga men do not, and never, concede to their lapses, faults and shortcoming ~ it’s a very tribal patriarchal thing. Two, which Government would concede to such lapses and come up front that all its tall claims are just that ~ tall claims? Now, we can go on and on about it or we can speak our minds through the ballot ~ if we do not sell our votes and if we are allowed to vote in the best traditions of democracy.
Right now, we have this threat of the novel Coronavirus staring at our faces to deal with and so let us attend to it. All precautionary and preventive measures have been broadcast repeatedly so the least we can do to help ourselves is to follow them persistently and perseveringly. Secondly, let us be very clear that except for Government agencies, nobody has the right to exercise lumpen power to enforce this lockdown. So, even if our state Government has directed village councils, etc., to enforce this lockdown, harassment and humiliation is not a part of this brief. In fact, our Government must place these village councils or any self-styled individuals/groups of individuals ~ even if under the directives of village councils ~ under the supervision of Government agencies such as the Police, which also need to be disciplined. Obviously, this relates to non-Nagas being harassed and humiliated by the Police also and worse still by non-Government “enforcers” of the lockdown.
It is ironic that we, including the state Government, have decried the harassment and discrimination meted to Northeasterners in Indian metropolitans but we think of nothing of the same we mete out to non-Nagas in Nagaland, particularly in Dimapur, which has the highest number of non-Nagas in Nagaland ~ and who actually keep the wheels of trade, commerce and industry of Nagaland well-oiled. How dense can we get? Besides, is this really the time to be chauvinistic and racist when the dreaded novel Coronavirus, which we are all striving to stave off, doesn’t differentiate between race, religion, colour, careers, professions, class, caste and gender?
To remind us all, in the first place it has been the Sikh community that has served meals regularly to the homeless and the needy for years. Now our Jain, Muslim and Bengali and other non-Naga communities have pitched in to serve cooked and non-cooked food and other essential commodities to the very same vulnerable sections ~ irrespective of race, colour, religion and such factors ~ at the risk of their health and lives but how many of us Nagas, especially here in Dimapur, have even thought of doing the same or are making a beeline to contribute to these efforts? Ignorance is no excuse because these efforts are widely publicized.
But there is also another side of the story, which gladdens the heart and springs hope eternal. Today, we also see so many of our people reaching out to help the vulnerable and those in dire circumstances. From some of our women groups, who are relentlessly sewing face masks to young and not-so-young people shopping for and providing other assistance to senior citizens, widows, pregnant women ~ whose husbands are posted to faraway places ~ disabled people, orphanages, and people in need of a helping hand, there is an emerging army of them extremely sensitive and sensitized to the call of the times. They are on the move to secure even the humblest of lives. Clearly, they live and act on the principles of “the greatest of all is love”.
Now the thing is that our situation is such that all our movable and immovable wealth is vanity of vanities in the face of the novel Coronavirus threat, which has imprisoned us to our home. How much of food can we hoard? How much of what we have panic-purchased will see us through these darks days? What and how many plans can we make for tomorrow? The novel Coronavirus must surely make us realize and acknowledge that these are times we live by the hour? Surely, that must make us realize that all our worldly goods are vanities of vanities hence make us open our hearts and minds?
Please donate to district administrations and community NGOs that are cooking and providing food to the vulnerable and the needy ~ if we really believe we are “issor jana manu”. Faith must be accompanied by action. Hopefully, the novel Coronavirus should cure us of our innate racism and racial and religious superiority complex. If not, we probably deserve to be afflicted with this dreaded virus.