Thursday, November 26, 2020

Life threatening situation

The day the State Government announced to close down schools as a measure to ward off coronavirus outbreak, the problem started sounding real. Although the initial reactions were mixed, and some people thought that the administration should have waited some more time to take such a decision, but soon the wisdom of the decision dawned on all. The way this deadly virus wreaked havoc in countries made it clear that the only defense against this disease is to stay home, and minimize human interaction as much as possible. The Government has now put the State in a virtual lockdown starting Monday, with all Government offices being closed; all shops and eateries in crowded places closed, except those dealing with foodgrains, vegetables, medicines and other essential commodities. Earlier it had shut down cinema halls, barred entry of tourists (both foreign and domestic), suspended issuance of fresh/new Inner Line Permits for all categories, and advisories against public gatherings. All this, cumulatively means that Government wants people to stay home, and stay safe. If the measures taken by the more affected countries are any indication it is just the beginning. In China, where the virus first struck, the only way it started receding, was the closing down of all public spaces. The pictures that came from cities like Wuhan gave us a sense of how an entire population stayed off roads, markets, and offices. Same is the case with other countries. In this backdrop the question surfaces up that should the administration here take more decisions to fight this disease. We have been lucky, till now, that there are no COVID-19 cases, according to State authorities, in Nagaland so far. That means we have some breathing time. The pattern of the spread of this disease suggests that once cases are detected, after an initial lazy unfurling, it suddenly goes up and hits a huge numbers of people. This means that before it, God forbid, the Government should close down public spaces that are not performing any emergency services. There is no doubt that State administration is facing the toughest challenge. In a chaotic landscape like ours, we can’t expect overnight miracles from the people in chair. Besides they too are humans and the tragedy that has befallen the public has not spared the government too. If – God forbid – it reaches our State, it will engulf all on this or that side of the table. So if doctors, administrators, municipal officers and other emergency departments are sweating out in the open, they do a greater job than the sitting chattering class like ours. We don’t deny them the credit. But the high-ups hold a greater responsibility. The order that directed students to stay home didn’t extend that ‘luxury’ to the staff. It was not a picnic holiday they were announcing. Such situations demand preemptive measures. Even if the problem was not as grave as it seemed, better err on the side of caution. Yes panic could unsettle the whole life, but it’s better you save people in panic than you let them die at ease. A sudden shutdown of all institutions would help reduce the risk of infection. After all if there is no class work in schools, why ask the staff to come and be present. Similarly the staff in many offices performing no emergency duties can be asked to work from home, and connect to the office online. Now with today’s order putting the State in almost lockdown, all such measures have been taken. These are not usual times. In abnormal situations, extraordinary decisions are taken. So the Government has taken decision as to which offices, and public spaces, are to be kept open for emergency purposes and which to close down. This will allow the system to better fight the pandemic. It is not a routine administrative affair; it is a life threatening situation. Finally the Government has woken up to the reality; because the element of denial that was there earlier was dangerous. It is true we should not panic, but at the same time we should do what needs to be done.