Post Mortem

Statement of Muthingnyuba Sangtam, MLA, Longkhim-Chare

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/30/2020 1:22:45 PM IST

 This first-hand account/statement is released to the public with a view to highlight the sequence of events leading to the easily preventable spread of COVID-19 to Eastern Nagaland and the controversies accompanying the same. During the past couple of days, we have witnessed intensive discussions and debates across all social media platforms on the matter, and in order to clear the air in the interest of the general public, I am making an effort to narrate of my first hand encounter and experience highlighting the efforts made by the Eastern Nagaland Legislators, even though we failed to stop this from happening. On 25th May, after the Kohima Village Council and Angamimiapfü Mechü Krotho demanded the Government to send all the stranded citizens to their respective districts, huge concerns were raised amongst various Eastern Naga civil societies, namely ENPO, Sangtam Likhum Pumji, Yimchunger Tribal Council, and Eastern Sumi Organization. Without wasting any time, these organisations and entities appealed to the competent authorities to keep the returnees from outside the state, especially those who had just returned from Chennai, in Kohima and Dimapur until proper tests are conducted and the results of the same are obtained. In this regard, Eastern Nagaland Legislators Union had a marathon meeting on Tuesday, March 26 at Kohima, appealing to the authorities not to send the returnees home until all mandatory tests are conducted, the necessity of which can be comprehended by anyone who has an ability to think straight. However, all these appeals fell on the deaf ears. Meanwhile, as the matter was under discussion, the authorities went behind our backs to clandestinely proceed with the sending off of the people to Tuensang. It was soon found to our utter dismay that one individual amongst those sent was confirmed to be COVID-19 positive. It is pertinent to mention here that the SOP was not followed in the transportation as the passengers were sent without food for the almost whole day journey and were compelled not to adhere to the prescribed social distancing. 

As a last resort, me along with four fellow members of ENLU decided to go down to the COVID-19 War Room at the Nagaland Civil Secretariat at about 6:00 pm to request the concerned senior officials in authority to review the decision of sending the returnees to Tuensang and recall them to Kohima. Literally following the lockdown protocols themselves, the War Room was also sealed with a lock. Already running out of time and options, we decided to meet the Deputy Commissioner, Kohima, who is also the nodal officer for transportation in the district. The Deputy Commissioner conveyed to us that he was awaiting further instructions on the 25th May, as he was aware of the concerns raised by the Eastern Naga civil societies. He admitted that the instructions to send the buses at 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm that afternoon came from the higher authorities and that bringing them back was beyond his powers and capabilities. It is important to highlight at this juncture that while all these incidents were unfolding one after the other, the Chief Minister was well aware of all the developments since morning, yet was under constant denial of the appeals that we were making. The above was the episode of May 26th in a nutshell. 

We are now faced with four confirmed cases in Tuensang alone, and it is bound to increase as more test results are awaited. We are now faced with such a scary situation which is entirely the fallout of criminal negligence on the part of the Government of the day in handling this pandemic, leading to a cloud of confusion and resulting in untold panic amongst stakeholders. The larger question now is, who should be held responsible for this. Is it the Chief Minister, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, the empowered committee on COVID-19, or the Nagaland State War Room? It was within the knowledge of all the above that there was an appeal not to send those people coming from outside the state to their respective native districts so soon, given the gravity of the situation and the risk of human lives involved. Despite the ENLU and other Eastern Naga civil society’s appeals and concerns, it was whimsically ignored. It is very evident from the above fact that all these actions were intentional and in disregard to human life and values. Make no mistake that the concerned authorities will be held solely responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in Eastern Nagaland and all the casualties and consequences that it brings along with it. 

While the top Government officials were well aware of the whole situation that transpired, it is very regrettable to note that the Government, today, through its spokesperson, stated that there is no negligence on their part and that such an "unfortunate incident" happened due to a communication gap. 

Amidst their contradictions and constant denials, is the government trying to barter BSL-2 with hundreds of human lives? 

Muthingnyuba Sangtam, 

MLA, 52-Longkhim-Chare A/C


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