Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
The nationwide lockdown started on 25 March and has been extended up to 17 May. Worldwide, Covid-19 has infected more than 32 lakh persons with almost 2.4 lakh fatalities. India has 35,500 persons infected, with 1,150 plus fatalities. In the Northeast, only Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram have active Covid-19 cases. the remaining five states of the Northeast are Covid-19-free.
Studies have revealed that 99 percent of Covid-19 infected symptomatic persons will show symptoms within 14 days. Only a miniscule 1 percent may show symptoms after 14 days. After undergoing 40 days of lockdown, it may be safely stated that Arunachal and the four other states of the Northeast are Covid-19-free.
Scientific logic dictates that there is no point in continuing the lockdown in the green states, including Arunachal. While insisting on social distancing and wearing of masks, Arunachal should lift the lockdown after 3 May. All types of shops, markets, offices, industries, agri-horticulture must be allowed to function. Passenger transportation within the state should be cleared following social distancing norms and transport sanitization. Since all adjoining districts of Assam, like Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur are also green zones, passenger transports going through these areas should also be permitted. Arunachalees travelling to these green districts/towns for medical/business purposes should be allowed after obtaining passes from the state government authorities without necessity of quarantine on return. Passenger transport travelling to other parts of Assam passing through orange/red zones should not be allowed to stop in these areas.
For essential loads, goods coming from outside the state should be transshipped via different set of drivers/staff from the designated entry/check gates after ensuring social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitization during transshipment. Goods and transport vehicles must be sanitized at the entry gates with decontamination sprays.
If nobody from outside the state is allowed to enter Arunachal without Covid-19 tests or 21 days of quarantine and goods are transshipped after sanitization, Arunachal should remain Covid-19-free till the development of vaccine or treatment. In the meantime, improvements in health infrastructure, like availability of more ICU beds with ventilators, testing labs, protective equipment, etc, must be expedited.
Arunachal is mostly dependent on central funds. Therefore the state must start generating its own funds through GST, VAT, non-tax revenue, etc. That is possible only when shops, industries, offices, courts and farming businesses are allowed to operate. Even liquor shops and meat and fish outlets should be opened up. Adequate revenue can be generated by sale of liquor and POL.
The green states must have some advantage over the red or orange states. Lockdown should be dictated by scientific logic. Many states of the USA and India are opening up despite Covid-19 cases due to rampant unemployment and collapse of the economy. Human enterprise should not be stopped and we should open up ensuring social distancing, masks and hand hygiene. Let’s keep Arunachal green! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)