Year ender: Hope keeps us alive

[ Amar Sangno, Junroi Mamai & Nellie N Manpoong ]

ITANAGAR, 31 Dec: Even as the world managed to get past the ordeals of 2020, the year 2021 came with its fair share of ups and downs. Just when we thought that Covid-19 was fading away, new variants kept cropping up, hitting not only the health sector but the economy as well.

By mid-2021, several businesses, especially in the tourism sector, slowly and steadily managed to get back on track as people were eager to travel, shop and eat out after being confined inside for a good whole year. However, a large number of business establishments are still trying to recover from their losses, and a few have closed for good.

With the reduction in the number of fresh cases of Covid-19 and no deaths in the past few months of the year, life had returned to almost normal. As usual, people were soon out, protesting on the streets, sometimes seeking the intervention of the chief minister and at times his resignation; event organizers held DJ nights; friends, families and clans went picnicking in large groups; restaurants, bars and movie theatres started operating as usual; and most significantly, schools and colleges started having physical classes.

The old normal was in sight.

However, the health department continued issuing advisories on the need to maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour, and rightly so as the new Omicron variant has made its way into the population in India and alarm bells have been ringing ever since.

We spoke with a range of people about the year gone by and what their hopes and aspirations are from the year 2022.

State Epidemiologist Dr L Jampa, who has been heading the fight against Covid-19 along with the dedicated team of health workers spread across the state, spoke on the essence and value of concerted teamwork to stay safe at the family and community levels.

“Lessons learnt from the past two years of Covid-19 pandemic are in plenty and enormous for the health department, policymakers, administration, and also for the general public. The virus exposed the gaps in the health facilities and enabled focus on the need to address critical requirements for a robust disease surveillance system and treatment protocols. We learnt to adapt to the situations and learnt to meet on virtual platforms using digital technology,” he said.

He highlighted the importance of community participation in dealing with and managing the common crisis in a collective manner, and stressed on the media’s crucial role in creating awareness.

Dr Jampa called for remaining alert and continuing observing Covid-appropriate behaviour, besides getting vaccinated and not panicking but doing what is right to be safe.

“The health department shall stay committed to keep the public safe and work hard to save lives and defeat the pandemic sooner or later,” he said.

A recent graduate (MA) from RGU, Tanuel Nonang said: “Unemployment is a very grave problem in Arunachal Pradesh. In a remote state, where most students come from families that are dependent on agriculture solely as their source of income, taking up higher studies means throwing money you can barely afford. Personally, it was difficult to approach my higher studies as the fees were either too high for my father as he is the only income earner in the family.”

“I believe basic amenities like education shouldn’t be something out of reach, especially for young aspirants. I hope that this year will see some changes pertaining to the same. I am not seeking free education, but charging a reasonable fee would suffice,” he added.

“By now, we all have learnt not to take things for granted and have adapted to the digital world. I just hope the coming year heals the devastation that the past year has caused,” said 24-year-old student Radhbam Sunya.

All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union general secretary Tobom Dai said: “On the part of the state government, 2021 was declared as the year of education. We were overwhelmed but nothing much has changed on the ground. The lone state university in Pasighat, whose foundation stone was laid nine years ago, is yet to get a vice chancellor.

Colleges in the state are running short of teachers, and teachers’ recruitment through the APPSC is taking much longer than expected.”

A government employee said: “From all that I have gone through last year, I have learnt not to depend on others anymore. Being self-reliant in every way is my motto now. I don’t think there will be any drastic changes in the coming year but I’d like to remain positive.”

“Last year was difficult; most of us have lost someone near to the pandemic. I hope everyone takes care of their health and remains strong because health is wealth. I’ve also learnt to take care of my health. My wish for the coming year would be to become a better version of myself. I hope that I do not repeat all the mistakes I’ve made in the past year,” said an employee working in the private sector.

Chief Minister Pema Khandu spoke about how the people of the state saw a massive disruption in their daily lives due to the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years.

 “However, it also brought us all together in fighting common challenges. We all learnt to work united and as a team. It is in the moment of adversity that opportunity lies.”

Saying that the past events have provided the people with telling lessons and reminders to be taken into the new year, the CM expressed hope that “with the team spirit in us, we will be able to overcome any kind of challenges in the future.”

Congress chief Nabam Tuki also spoke about how the pandemic caused economic difficulties in 2020 and 2021.

“People suffered unbearable pain and sorrows due to loss of many lives of near and dear ones. People have been living with fear due to lockdown and have lost their day-to-day businesses, lost their jobs and livelihoods. But people of Arunachal Pradesh have stood united with the administration and health department and the government has managed the coronavirus pandemic well. We will continue to give our best efforts in future endeavours,” he said.

The past two years have affected everyone differently, mostly due to the pandemic that had taken over our lives. People have embraced the new normal as well as gone back to the old ways. It has truly been a rollercoaster ride, but humanity has managed to come out stronger and found its way around difficult situations. The 1st of January may be just another day to some, but it is a new day, and every new day brings in hope, and hope is what keeps humanity alive.