Post Mortem

COVID-19 Crisis: Nagaland must reflect & reset priorities

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 4/16/2020 12:50:10 PM IST

 The ongoing crisis, brought about by the deadly virus called COVID-19, is unprecedented in recent human history. The last time the world saw a pandemic of a global scale was the Spanish flu that took the lives of several million about a century ago. There is very little that we know about the impact of the Spanish flu on the land of Nagas. 

Today, in this interconnected global village, we all are well-aware of the risks of COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges confronting us. In times like this, we must extend support and cooperation to the authorities as we stand by one another as fellow human beings. The duly elected government headed by the Chief Minister and his cabinet along with the State bureaucracy under the leadership of the Chief Secretary has been trying to make ends meet despite the limitation of a debilitating system. 

The support and help of the Governor in working out for the immediate airlift of critical equipments from Mumbai to Dimapur to fast-track setting up of a BSL Laboratory in the State was also appreciable. As rightly stated by the Governor, this would enable the testing of suspected COVID-19 cases in Nagaland instead of sending samples to laboratories in Assam and Manipur as is being done until now. However, keeping the basic structure of the relationship between the elected State government and the Governor is crucial, after all, there is a clear separation of powers and all executive decision rests with the cabinet, including the setting up of a ‘COVID-19 War Room’. 

With the first confirmed case reported from Nagaland on 11 April and in the context of the extension of lockdown in the country, the State government needs to do more in implementing the message ‘Stay Home Stay Safe’ as it has been relaying. Limited health care facilities and services in the State mean that we face a huge challenge against the enormity of the pandemic. As seen in other parts of the country and the world, the virus can infect hundreds and thousands in a matter of days. For a population of our size, this would mean the very meaning of our existence. 

As per the updated guidelines of the Union Home Ministry, the Chief Minister must ensure strict social distancing measures to be implemented during the lockdown period to contain the spread of COVID-19. Social or charity work either by the political class and NGOs must be discouraged at this crucial stage of the pandemic. Distribution of cooked food, dry rations and other relief materials should continue to be given out only by authorized local bodies and officials while following all the norms. Citizens must channelize their activities through the local administration if they want to contribute their services to our people and refrain from going out on their own as such acts may endanger their lives and that of others.   

On monetary assistance and other public funds specifically related to fighting COVID-19, the government should account for every single contribution. This will build the confidence of the people in the system and ensure the timely and proper utilization of resources. The Naga people have the right to know from the government the following questions: 

1. How much money was sanctioned to the State by the Central government with regard to COVID-19 crisis?

2. What were the medical supplies provided by the Central government?

3. How much money was spent on the procurement of PPEs and other medical necessities? Who were the vendors? 

4. How much/many grants-in-aid money was/were given to the DCs/ULBs and the village councils? In particular, the DCs of the districts should be directed to spell out their expenditure lists. 

5. The State government should also clarify whether the frontline workers, namely, the policeman on duty, the nurses and doctors and health workers are being given remunerations for their selfless service. And it may also clarify or justify as to why the salaries of the frontline workers such as the police are being deducted when they should be conferred bonuses instead. 

6. Whether the state government is utilizing the State’s share of Central taxes amounting to thousands of Crores devolved by the 14th Finance Commission in the fight against COVID-19? 

As an immediate measure, the government should explain as to whether it plans to conduct mass testing of citizens? While Nagaland cannot be compared to Delhi in terms of resources, Delhi nevertheless has started testing tens of thousands with rapid testing kits. 

With the huge inflow of money as given by the Central government, the State government may start identifying possible hotspots, such as Dimapur – especially congested or market areas – and start taking necessary measures such as the random testing process with these rapid testing kits. In the absence of BSL lab/s or awaiting completion the government should introduce these kits on a war-footing. With a ‘COVID-19 War Room’ already in place, is it possible for the government to bring out a road-map to combat the virus? 

The government should also reflect upon the hardships faced by the farmers and the local entrepreneurs in areas such as bakery, food processing, mills, dairy products, etc. For example, while the units have come to a standstill, the entrepreneur still has to pay the salaries of the workers or pay electricity bills. The government may need to come out with appropriate bail-out policies in the interest of the small businesses.

At a time when the entire security set up is focusing on enforcing the lockdown and citizens are inside their homes following the health advisory, the government should not forget to guard our land and borders from undesirable elements, all forms of trafficking including the movement of illegal immigrants that could be detrimental to health, social order and peace. 

Much beyond the immediate concern of combating COVID-19, there is no doubt that the limits of our systems have been exposed. The pandemic has triggered new debates and narratives on how the post-COVID world would look like. The COVID-19 will re-set what we know of the current world order defined by globalization, multilateralism and global multilateral institutions. 

In Nagaland, we are being forced to build and prepare. Our health infrastructure or the lack of it is getting exposed; our government system is being challenged to perform like never before. Even after more than fifty years of statehood that the Civil Hospital in the commercial capital, Dimapur has only one ventilator is nothing to be proud of. 

It’s a collective shame and a failure of successive governments, spanning more than 50 years. That the governments in the past and present could not procure and install more than one ventilator this last fifty years is a statistic of Himalayan proportion. The people of Nagaland have every right to question the poor level of preparedness in the State. The people of Nagaland have the right to demand a review of the culture of ‘merry-making’ propagated by the government and a strong commitment to building the health and educational infrastructure of the State should be given the priority.

This challenging time that we are going through should also lead us to a new awakening, of accelerated change and a quantum leap into a new paradigm. A giant mirror is being held up before us. It feels like COVID-19 is orchestrating a rite of passage into a better future in bringing about a new social order.

Nagaland must reflect and reset during this God-given time of quarantine. Our solidarity is with the government and the people of Nagaland during this difficult time. We hope and pray that Nagaland comes out stronger and better from this crisis. God bless Nagaland.

The Naga Rising 

1. Along Longkumer

2. VithoZao

3. Hukavi T. Yeputhomi

4. Amai Chingkhu

5. Tsukti Longkumer

6. Moie Bonny Konyak

7. Ngukato K. Tsuipu

8. Mar Longkumer

9. Joel Naga

10. Khriezodilhou Yhome

11. Phyoben Odyuo

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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