2020: The year that was
IFP Editorial: With reduced numbers of positive cases, the Manipur government have started winding up the Covid Care Centres while opening OPDs in the main hospitals.
The year 2020 was indeed an eventful year with the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across this landlocked state, Manipur, leaving thousands and thousands jobless and work-places disappearing, the economy in tatters and healthcare activities thrown out of gear, and causing social distress. The three women markets, the hub of economic activity in the state is still not yet open for fear of spread of the deadly pandemic for nearly nine months, while shops in Khwairamband Bazar and the peripheral areas have begun resuming business after the long stretch of lockdown period. The market women and the street vendors continues to suffer due to the restrictions of the pandemic.
The market is not only about bread and butter to them. The marketplace is also their social life. It is not so much about the trading activity but the social interactions they engage in, which attracts them to Khwairamband Keithel daily. The state have tried to compensate these market women and street vendors with working capital and loans under various schemes. But, we want to impress upon the government that resuming market activity is more important to these women than just monetary help. Now, the time has come for opening up the markets with safety measures.
Our worst fears about the pandemic is far from over with a more deadly mutated version of Covid-19 surfacing in United Kingdom even as the daily number of positive cases are coming down in the state. Some positive cases of the new strain have been detected among the UK returnees in the country and health authorities are still busy with contact tracing among the persons who had come into contact with these positive persons. With reduced numbers of positive cases, the state government has started winding up the Covid Care Centres while opening OPDs in the main hospitals and the compulsory testing at the airport has been discontinued.
This year also, bandhs and blockades were almost absent but for some habitual blockaders attempting to held the government at ransom on flimsy demands or grievances sometimes. Yet, politics does not sleep even during the pandemic. The ruling coalition led by BJP’s N Biren Singh had a hard time with internal dissidence rearing its head every now and then with active encouragement from the opposition Congress and unfriendly coalition partners. Every coalition partner wants their pound of flesh and the chief minister had a hard time manoeuvring the push and pulls. Yet somehow, he manages to come at the top. After the success in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections Chief Minister N Biren has managed to held sway at the recently held by-elections. Or say, he has passed the litmus test of successful leadership. After the resignation of three party MLAs as engineered by the wily Okram Ibobi, BJP was reduced to 18 from the original 21. With the results of by-elections and a favourable High Court verdict, the BJP tally has now increased to 23 in a house of 60 with an effective strength of 53. The Lilong representative Antas Khan has now declared his support for the government. Now that the chief minister has a sizeable number and full backing from the top leadership of BJP, his political stature in the party has greatly increased. While internal dissension has simmered down in the past months, the bargaining capacity of its allies like NPP and NPF has been reduced.
All that remains is the fate of the 12 MLAs who were once appointed Parliamentary Secretaries in a bid to assuage hurt feelings within the party who were left out of the ministry in favour of coalition partners. The Manipur High Court had already struck down the two laws relating to Parliamentary Secretaries. While the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012 were already in contravention of various judgements passed by other high courts, the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Repealing Act, 2018 was indeed a bad advice. Now what remains to be seen is how the state government tries to extricate itself out of the mess.