Of weak political and bureaucratic leadership

Monday Musing

[ Taba Ajum ]
The lockdown of the Itanagar capital region has been extended upto 3 August. The capital-specific lockdown was imposed first on 6 July, when the Covid-19 cases started rising in the capital region. As the number of Covid-19 cases rises, there is growing restlessness among the people. The blame game and stigmatization have started. The situation looks chaotic at the moment, and there is a complete lack of political as well as bureaucratic leadership.
A lot of public anger over the growing cases is being directed towards the health department, which is actually unfair. In fact, it is due to the sincerity of the frontline health workers that the situation is still under control in the state. At this juncture, when they are battling a serious battle, instead of blame game it is better to extend full support.
However, there is no denying that the higher-level bureaucrats and political leadership who take policy decisions have failed the people. They had enough time to prepare when the nationwide lockdown was in place. The lockdown was first imposed on 24 March and remained in place till 31 May. The lockdown restrictions were lifted from 8 June onwards and unlocking started. The government had enough time to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Knowing the situation in the ICR, the government should have constructed a dedicated Covid-19 hospital and kept the TRIHMS out of it. There are enough government infrastructures within the capital region which can be converted into temporary hospitals. It was only when the situation started to worsen that the government took the decision to convert the newly constructed MLA apartments into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital. This should have been done during the first lockdown itself.
Also, the dedicated prefabricated Covid-19 hospital which is coming up in Midpu has been delayed too long. The health secretary and the chief secretary are reportedly monitoring the progress of work on the hospital. On Sunday the CS announced that the hospital would be ready by the end of this month.
Earlier, it had been announced that the hospital would start functioning by 18 July. The delay in getting the hospital ready on time shows the inefficiency of the policymakers at the highest level.
The political leadership has also been found wanting as Covid-19 cases rise. It is understandable that they are following the lockdown norms and perhaps might be at home. But in today’s social media world, it does not take much effort to convey a message. People look upto the leadership for solace during difficult times. Look at Assam, where Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has managed to assuage the restlessness of the citizens despite growing cases.
The government has extended the lockdown upto 3 August, and it’s time to let the doctors and other health experts take the call. The bureaucrats should take a back seat and let the professional health experts do the job. Remember, lockdowns are harsh on the citizens, especially the daily wage earners and the business community. It is also mentally affecting the citizens. The people are making immense sacrifices. Let the sacrifices not go in vain. Conduct more tests and ramp up the hospital infrastructure during the lockdown period.
Also, it has come to the fore that Covid-19 patients are facing social stigmatization, due to which they are hiding their contact and travel history. It is reported that sections of people in the colonies and villages are issuing threats that people who bring the virus to the area would have to pay a heavy price as per the traditional tribal custom. This is insane and the police should book such people.
Further, the recent case of 18 people getting infected after attending a Christian prayer centre in 2 Kilo, Naharlagun, is another wake-up call for the state government. Learning from it, the government should consider the option of banning all kinds of religious activities and close down places of worship for the whole year in the interest of the state.