Where the mind is without fear
The general public was expecting not only a change in effective governance from the new bureaucratic leadership, but a change in perception and imagination also which ultimately goes up to the political leadership.
In the early stages, fear of the pandemic among the general public had its advantages. Few people dared to venture out in the streets out of fear of getting infected and if at all they come out they did it with caution and safety measures. And the job was somewhat made easier for the enforcers of the lockdown measures, with local volunteers assisting the force also in certain areas. On the other hand, police also had a field day in increasing revenue from errant violators of lockdown measures for quite some time. But, the police checkpoints slowly faded away with increasing number of infection among the members of the force. During the lockdown, it was somewhat like locking up the general population in a minimum security jail. As the unlock process kick-started with doses of relaxations in certain sectors to bring back life in the economy, people started coming out slowly to seek air. Many in the daily wage system and unorganised sector, left asunder by the lockdown restrictions, came out in the streets leaving behind the fear and an avalanche followed. Caution was thrown to the winds in the backdrop of widespread lockdown-induced poverty and inactivity.
The general public perfectly understands that the cumulative number of Covid-19 positive cases have crossed the 10,000 mark and also increasing in an average of three digit figure daily. In a state with approximately 30 lakh population, there is certainly alarming. But, life has to go on and we cannot live in perpetual fear forever. That is what, the general population is shouting about from the rooftops. Out of necessity for life and activity, the public mind seems to have shed the pervasive fear from its mind and surfaced in a bid to acclimatise to the changing environment. Yet, the government remains trapped in fear and the safety of the status-quo set by previous bureaucrats. The general public was expecting not only a change in effective governance from the new bureaucratic leadership, but a change in perception and imagination also which ultimately goes up to the political leadership. The pandemic is not all about numbers and percentages. It is a public health issue, which has impacted the socio-economic life of the general population like never before. The world has changed and we need to adapt to the changes. And it is not the time to hide behind figures, but to envision the ground reality which is happening right before our eyes and act upon it.
The administration needs to come out of its self-webbed cocoon and try experiencing a real-time situation in the peripheral streets of the main Bazar areas where every morning hundreds of street vendors throng to hawk fresh vegetables and other fare to the eager public. While the government is dithering on the decision whether to open the women markets of Imphal or not, it is happening on the peripheral streets with even a sprinkling of daily wagers on the rails of the bridge over Nambul River. It has been seven months, since the women markets were closed, of course voluntarily by the market leaders on the request of the Chief Minister himself in an effort to break the chain of transmission. Now, the eighth month is starting. Dare we ask, how they have fared in the last seven months with no earning and activity? No, we would be slapped. Instead, the government should immediately start the process of re-opening of the women markets in phases or in managed lots. Yes, the process has to be carefully thought out.
In the meantime, the time has come to rethink the response strategy of the state government in the state. One cannot live in a state of fear forever. For God’s sake, please use your imagination and bring back life and activity in the state once again.