Monday, June 14, 2021

Pandemic’s price & lessons

If we go by recent trends of the numbers of detected COVID positive across Nagaland, which our Health authorities issue daily, we cannot fail to notice the infection’s shift towards interior Nagaland. About three weeks ago or so, Dimapur and Kohima showed the highest number of positive cases. Now slowly our interior districts are showing an increasing number of positive cases. Although the spread of infection to rural areas was predicted and forewarned, this trend is worrisome for several reasons ~ foremost being the fractured health infrastructure and service in our interior districts and rural areas. Needless but pertinent to underscore repeatedly that the healthcare delivery system even in perceived urban districts such as Dimapur and Kohima is much to be desired, so the plight of the less fortunate interiors districts can only be imagined. But even that cannot be imagined by those who have never lived there ~ much less travelled to these woefully neglected areas. Life, in these often forgotten areas, is beyond what we living in the urban areas of Dimapur, Kohima and even Mokokchung districts, can ever imagine. In fact, that is the primary reason we have migrated here from our villages, isn’t it? For decades, the imbalanced development of our State has gone unaddressed and redressed so it is a pity that it is taking a pandemic of unprecedented magnitude to bring to the fore that these too are the land and the people we claim to be ours ~ over which we claim ownership and our rights, and have fought and bled for. For decades our political, economic, tribal and cultural elite, as also intelligentsia, have assertively waxed eloquence on the indissoluble bond of Naga brotherhood before the world ~ yet we have remained content to let our brethren in these forsaken areas remain under-developed, incomparable to what even Dimapur and Kohima were forty-fifty years ago. Is our conscience so deeply in coma that nothing, not even a pandemic, can rouse it? Surely a sense of brotherhood must be accompanied by a sense of giving and sharing? But it seems that we have embraced the dictum out-of-sight-out-of-mind and made it our guiding star towards our aspirational journey. There are numerous factors for the abysmal under-developed status of our interior areas, which are discoursed on from time to time ~ basically at an academic level. Unfortunately, our political, economic, tribal and cultural elite, and the intelligentsia (not necessarily within academia) have yet to seriously delve into measures that would heal these areas’ under-developed pandemic. Therefore, it becomes convenient for our Governments over the decades to pay lip-service and throw down a few paisas now and then by way of this or that road or project. The pandemic is making us pay ~ and its price will increase many-fold. The end of the pandemic is distant dream. So, our State’s COVID numbers and statistics need more attention ~ while it is good news that in the past few days, the number of recoveries are exceeding the number of infection, we need to remind ourselves that these are numbers of tested people, not every citizen in the State. Besides, infection numbers are not only of one day but of several days because some testing results take time, especially if they are sent to other places. So, in one day infection numbers could be of several days’ testing ~ which means we really don’t know our exact infection numbers as yet. Therefore, it would be premature for Dimapur and Kohima to celebrate the decreasing number of infection, which would make us end up like India in early 2021 till now. And while the H&FW Principal Director is right that we cannot describe the situation in Rural Nagaland as ‘Alarming Situation’, we cannot afford not to be sufficiently alarmed and alert about how our rural areas fare especially in terms of food and other essential commodities. We have no doubts that our Health authorities are taking care of preventive measures but our rural areas must also be assured and ensured of curative measures. While these also necessitate relentless testing, tracing and vaccination, it is also imperative that our Government promptly initiates over-all balanced development across the State because it is evident that under-development makes areas and people more vulnerable to COVID-19, as also numerous other risks to life and limbs and reduces livelihood opportunities. We must pay the minimum price; simultaneously, we must also learn the lessons, of this pandemic.