When Covid-19 entered the scene, one of the many sectors it has impacted is that of education: with schools and colleges being closed, leading to students who are cooped at home to take to online classes. But as they say, one size does not fit all and there certainly needs to be a proper relook at the modalities of online tutorials and classes. To begin with: are students in primary school level supposed to be sitting before laptops or phone screens? Should they be allowed to do so? More importantly, with many parents in nuclear households caught up in household and work from home arrangements, sometimes with their own mandatory online webminars or meetings, should young children be allowed to use the internet unsupervised?
The internet is as much a useful tool as it is the gateway to an early addiction to its use, exposure to content that are sexually inappropriate and the risk of being caught in a web of fake news. Throw in children to this lot and you have a whole load to worry about. Even with older children, the moot point is: are online classes a necessity or a means of providing educational institutions an excuse for them to ask parents for school fees? How much of learning is happening in an online class really? In a pandemic that has led to so much uncertainty and anxiety, are young people in the right frame of mind to be given the additional burden of mugging up their lessons? The experts on this domain need to give some thought on these questions as Covid does not seem to be contained in the country anytime soon, except Kerala of course which is flattening the curve.
The Government at the Center has been at its pragmatic best when it comes to Corona response: no less than the Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry has asked citizens of the country “to learn to live with the virus”. That says quite a huge deal about how clueless the government has been to prepare and intervene with the many aspects of the pandemic that has been impacting the lives of people. But it has been said and now Manipur too needs to be ready to live with it. So tongue firmly in cheek and a pinch of salt, let us explore the many possibilities that the situation can lead to in Manipur and the changes it might bring to us: for better or worse is something one cannot gurantee!
First and foremost: pray and hope that no further Covid positive cases are detected in the state. Our CM must not be in the position that the Tripura CM is in today after happily proclaiming “Covid free status” earlier, a technically wrong thing to say then and proved now by the fact that there are over 118 positive cases in Tripura (at the time of writing this). Pray that a one time test for Covid on those returning from the rest of the country to Manipur will not be asymptomatic cases where a test right now will come negative but can possibly change after a 14 day period. Yes, Manipur is brimming over with security personnel – the state’s own forces and central security forces who live and operate in close quarters, travelling together with all norms for physical distancing going for a toss.
Praying will be the best thing to do, given Covid testing in Manipur is only focusing on a one time test for new entries to the state. Pray hard: after all, 80% of Covid cases are asymptomatic. Oh! There’s a very rosy picture painted in the once respectable Economic Times that says ‘Manipur is taming the Covid dragon’, the writer waxing eloquent on what’s special about the response in Manipur. This despite the low testing numbers but then, when the writer is the Vice President of the party that is in power in the state who puts out his identity as ‘Secretary’ of ‘an independent think tank’ (that is made up of people with links to BJP), you can only roll your eyes and leave it at that. If Manipur is taming the dragon (which is a mythical creature) imagine what Kerala is doing in reality.
Moving on, most states in the country are in an interesting situation over the sale of alcohol: in Delhi, a steep Corona tax has been put on to generate revenue, something that has not deterred determined guzzlers and which led to crowding around liquor stores. Taking the demand into consideration, other states are now opening up to home delivery of alcohol to ensure physical distancing is not breached. Manipur can proudly teach them a thing or two about alcohol sales! So what if there is a ‘dry state’ status? Everyone and their relatives know that alcohol flows everywhere, lockdown or no lockdown. No one needs to form lines for alcohol; all it takes is a look out at alcohol vendor sites and phone calls for due pick up and payment.
Another novel thing that the Covid situation has brought to the state is the way Manipur Police is conscientiously booking lockdown violators with due process and not the earlier style of money passing by hand for traffic violations. A prolonged lockdown might just change the ways of the Manipur Police, who knows! Miracles can happen, right?
On a serious note though – a Covid 19 vaccine is still a distant dream that experts are saying will not be anytime soon this year. This means going back to the age old saying: prevention is better than cure, or in this case, prevention of Covid 19 now is better than a distant vaccine for the same. ‘Taming the Covid dragon’ is a totally romantic notion, not to mention far fetched for apart from the medical response, there is the matter of socio economic measures that need to be in place for the state to stand on its feet. No amount of posturing, no amount of dressing up inadequate measures in romantic and entirely fictional narratives is going to matter in the long run till comprehensive strategies are worked out and put in place.
After signing the Framework Agreement between the Government of India (GOI) and the Isak-Muvah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, NSCN (IM) on