Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Oh, but we are paying

Everyday our Health authorities inform the daily statistics of the COVID situation in Nagaland ~ the number of detected positive cases, recoveries and deaths across the State. The Health authorities do not claim that these statistics are absolute ~ they cannot because these are only the recorded ones. The results of random tests indicate that there are still many undetected positive cases hence it would be a mistake for us to believe that these statistics are absolute underlining the fact that we cannot afford to let our guard down. This further underscores the need for more random tests ~ in fact, door-to-door tests would be more ideal. Now, as for statistics on COVID-related deaths, while our Health authorities inform the over-all numbers, including due to co-morbidities, it fails to inform how many deaths have actually occurred due to absence of access to hospital and ICU treatment, oxygen and medicines, etc., as also access to one, several or all of them due to poverty. While there are alleged instances of self-medication and treatment going awry resulting in tragedies, there probably are also other factors such as lack of access to transportation, heeding to non-medical advice, faith healing, etc., which cannot be discounted for cause(s) of COVID fatalities. And all these factors need to be scrutinized because safe-guarding, securing and protecting citizens’ lives is the moral and constitutional obligation of the State and Government. Besides, the buzz of oxygen black-marketeering cannot be wished away or written off without serious investigations. It is all very fine for the Government to announce what it is doing ~ in terms of COVID hospitals, beds, oxygen, medicines, vaccines, etc ~ in publicity and photo ops such as inaugurations, inspections, etc., ~ and perhaps convince the public that Cabinet and other Ministers and Advisors are hard at work to “fight” the pandemic. And, that too after so many lives have been lost, livelihoods destroyed and families wrecked. The decades of the pathetic state of our healthcare delivery system stood fully exposed last year and yet our Government chose to sleep when the world was warned of second and third waves, which raged in several countries. The lull in the pandemic for a few months seems to have made our Government believe that it could return to its old days and ways. Unfortunately, blaming previous Governments now is untenable because the personalities in all these Governments are more or less the same ~ under whatever names of parties. On May 25, while visiting the Institute of Hotel Management at Dimapur, our Chief Minister reportedly said: “I am aware that some people are still in ICU on ventilator for more than a month. Many are dying but many are also surviving”. If he said that, it was a very insensitive statement. Reportedly, he also said: “We are a consumer society. We don’t pay income tax, property tax…and we are exempted. We know how to receive but don’t know how to give. Nothing is free, we have to pay for any service or anything that you require and the Government is trying its best.” Well, Mr. Chief Minister, Nagas may not pay Income and Property Taxes but we are paying all other taxes ~ the MRP of every item states: “Inclusive of all Taxes”. Moreover, the amount of money Nagas pay as “taxes” underscores that Nagas certainly know “how to give” and the price of this giving. So, Nagas know “Nothing is free”. The argument of Nagas not paying Income and Property Taxes isn’t new but has been used and abused by members of the ruling class and some bureaucrats for almost thirty years. However, as we can see, this argument doesn’t explain and justify the woeful absence of accountability, transparency, mis-governance and corruption, including backdoor appointments. In fact, one of the causes of these “taxes” Nagas pay is due to the ruling class being beholden to the collectors of these “taxes” to secure power and the resultant politics of fence-sitting. Oh, Mr. Chief Minister, Nagas have paid and are still paying several times the worth we got and are getting in terms of the decades of abysmal health and education systems, infrastructure, mis-governance and corruption. Income and Property Taxes can be calculated and audited but not what Nagas have paid ~ a life time of political, economic and constitutional deprivation. True, for decades Nagas have made mistakes while voting but don’t treble the price and the tax for that. It may boomerang.