DIMAPUR, JUNE 3: Wanted: A Health Minister who functions outside the theatre of Twitter and photo ops.
Of late, Nagaland Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and management of finance, associated with its responses to the crisis, is being placed under the microscope.
And, overshadowed by this act of zooming in on the general performance of the State Government is the quite unflattering showing of the State’s Health Minister S Pangnyu Phom.
For some time now, as far back as the first lockdown, notes of discontent at the Health Minister’s performance have been expressed, but only in whispers.
But slowly, the hushed tones are reaching a higher pitch and the voices are growing louder by the day.
The common theme among those unhappy with the Minister’s performance is that he is visible only on Twitter once a day ~ there is a pandemic to be fought and as the Health Minister, he should be leading the charge on all fronts.
His case has hardly been helped by how well Health Ministers of some other States ~ the former Health Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma being the nearest example ~ have shouldered their responsibilities and performed their role.
Since the second wave of pandemic hit Nagaland this year, which has been much more devastating and fatal than the first, the Nagaland Health Minister is yet to give a press conference.
Not that he was particularly active at fronting up before the press during the first wave either, which has now led to murmurs of hiding behind the safety of social media chambers.
As the decibel of discontent threatens to produce a much more jarring note, Nagaland Page reached out to a diverse section of people for their reflections on the Minister’s performance thus far.
“There’s more to being the Minister in-charge of Health than tweeting daily COVID case-count”, deadpanned Imkong Walling, a senior journalist at The Morung Express.
What Nagaland needs, he reasoned, is a proactive Health Minister, “someone with a keen ear, sensitive to the demands of the people at large and is honest enough to admit the failures”.
Walling, however, maintained that this shortcoming was not limited only to the Health Minister.
“In fact, this is a lack observed not only in the Health Minister but is a trait pervasive among Legislators in Nagaland, irrespective of their place in the political divide”, he observed.
The senior journalist’s observations found echo in the expression of Tia Longchar, an entrepreneur known for his social activism.
According to him, the Health Minister in Nagaland is known for updating COVID-19 status on Twitter.
He also complemented the senior journalist’s remark about keeping a “keen ear” and being “sensitive to the demands of the people”.
“Sadly in Nagaland, we have this trend of Constituency Ministers, who are least bothered about general Naga welfare. Every District has its own social fabric and approach. For instance, there is no dedicated COVID-19 hospital in Mokokchung, so the lone Civil Hospital has become the hotbed of frontline workers’ infection. My cousin, who is a Nurse, was found to be COVID positive yesterday. So also 7-8 other Nurses who were tested positive. Almost the same number of doctors were also tested positive.
“Yesterday, Mokokchung registered 40 positive cases while in Dimapur, it was 86 positive cases. Logically, per population, Mokokchung’s surge is alarming! What are the expert analyses making out of the statistics? Is the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis done, to rectify and improvise the existing infrastructure and workforce? What about calling in volunteers with adequate medical cover and protections? The Health Department says that the trend is moving towards the rural population. If that is the case, how are the SOPs put in place? What about the preparedness of the Medical Department at the PHC level?” he queried.
For the General Secretary of Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC), Capt. GK Zhimomi, the Health Minister has either been totally sidelined or he has failed to rise up to the occasion.
“During the entire pandemic lockdown, starting March 2020, visibility of the Health Minister is only on Twitter platform once a day, when he tweets to update about COVID-19 cases”, the NPCC leader said.
A mother of two kids, who did not wish to be named, said that she hardly follows politics and political personalities on the news.
“But in this pandemic, aren’t they all hiding? I only see doctors and healthcare workers (in the newspapers)”, she remarked.
“Where have all the flowers gone?” indeed!
(Page News Service)