Frequent shutdown strikes, curfews and indefinite economic blockades, have all prepared Manipur too well for the ongoing nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19. Despite the controversies and challenges that clogged the news headlines, here are some progressive development infused by the national wide lockdown.
HAPPY TIMES FOR TRUCKERS
For a landlocked state, still unconnected by the rail network of the country, the only means for replenishing the supply of essential goods of the state are the freight trucks. Considering their essentiality, their service is exempted for the lockdown.
According to Maimom Anil Meitei, the general secretary of the All Manipur Road Transport Drivers’ and Motor Workers’ Union, ferrying in of essential goods to the state has never been smoother.
‘Even though the lockdown has paralyzed normal life, transportation of goods has never been easier. During lockdown, the usual interference that puncture our service along the national highways especially in the Nagaland-Manipur section have all stopped. This has speeded up our service and lower cost of transportation,’ said the secretary. Comparatively, the number of trucks arriving with goods in the state has shot up by 50, taking the total figure of freight trucks coming into the state daily to 200 trucks and over 150 trucks moving out of the state.
Supplementing on what the leader of the motor workers’ union just said, a freight truck driver who requested anonymity said that loaded trucks coming in from other states can now proceed directly to Imphal. “Before, trucks from other states like Andhra Pradesh, UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu etc. have had to unload in Guwahati or Dimapur where the goods are then loaded on to trucks that are acquainted in negotiating the several ‘extortion counters’ set up by armed outfits like the NSCN IM, NSCN K etc. along the Nagaland-Manipur section of the national highway no 2. Because of the lockdown the counters have ceased operation, mitigating the plights of the transporter,” revealed a driver who had just arrived in the Moa check-out, the first entry point into Manipur.
Because the mobility of the freight drivers and motor workers make them vulnerable victims of the pandemic as well as targets of discrimination, state administration has taken a cohesive measure for their safety. There had been incidences of stigmatization by local residents against the drivers and the handymen who had returned home after a freight trip.
Under the Covid-19 prevention programme, all freight trucks that are ferrying in goods from outside the state are mandated to park at the inter-state bus terminus, ISBT at Imphal. The drivers and handymen are then made to go through mandatory medical screening. Subsequently trucks are issued yellow cards, valid for 24 hours, to unload their goods at their respective destination. After unloading, the empty trucks have to report back to the ISBT where they are then given green cards which permit them to proceed for the next trip. If the medics find anyone with worrying signs and symptoms, they are sent to the designated quarantine centres. At least three truck drivers are being kept in a designated quarantine centre after complains of cough. The transport department also make sure that the ‘transporters’ are provided with daily rations and other basic services at the terminus.
Another service that is booming under the covid-19 lockdown is the home delivery service. FoodWifi, ready-to-eat food delivery service provider, a surging Start-up company, supported by the Manipur Start-Up initiative of the government, is making hay while the sun shines.
‘The lockdown has accelerated our diversification plans,’ said Bickychand Khangjarakpam, the co-founder of FoodWifi, a Rs 1.2 crore turn-over Start-up company. ‘While our home delivery of ready to eat food have halted due to the lockdown, we’ve started home delivery of groceries and essential items through our app-supported service,’ added the Oinam Kennedy, the other founder. For a Start-up that used to boast of a maximum of 300 food deliveries orders in a day, it is handling over 100 home deliveries during the lockdown, much to the delight of the residents.
In all likelihood, the government of Manipur is expected to relax the lockdown after April 20. Chief minister, N. Biren Singh had hinted that sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and finances, clubbed as the green zone by the ministry of home affairs guidelines, are likely to exempted from the lockdown.
“Given the state’s proximity with international borders with Myanmar and China, we will take a decision on the status of the lockdown after careful scrutiny. Whatever it may be, we cannot let our guards down against the spread of the pandemic in the state,” reiterated the Manipur chief minister.