While announcing lockdown 4, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Rs. 20 lakh crore stimuli package to tackle the impact of coronavirus and weeks of lockdown. In fact, after this announcement, thousands of people living in various parts of India decided to return to the respective home states. Lakhs of hapless migrant workers started moving out of their work places to reach their homes, many of them on foot. Seeing them walking on highways and rail tracks to reach their homes would surely be recorded as one of the most painful chapters in the history of the nation, and Modi’s inability to prevent them from moving out of their working places would mark as the greatest failure of his leadership and government.
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Many walked without food for days and many died on the way to their homes. Even dozens of them were mowed down by a train while they were walking in tracks to reach their homes.
In fact, nobody would have ever thought of leaving any place wherever they lived had Modi announced to take care of their wellbeing by coordinating with the respective state governments. If the government provided all the necessary items needed for any human to survive with security to their lives during the lockdown, they would have stayed back wherever they were. His Rs. 20 lakh crore stimuli package did not have any program for them.
Even lakhs of Northeast people had been studying and working in various parts of the country. Imagine the kind of stress, melancholy, and trauma they would have ever since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and more so after Modi announced the nationwide lockdown in the last part of March 2020. They had ordeals during the lockdown in far off places with uncertainties prevailing everywhere in the world. At this time, their only hope would be to return home.
Nearly 80% of them had already been evacuated. Many are still returning home. They have been staying in quarantine centers in their respective states, and many tested positive for COVID-19. Such positive cases are only expected.
Those tested positive for COVID-19 have been segregated from those who are in quarantine centers and undergoing treatment. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 will also be treated. Many have also been discharged after recovery.
Now, our focus should be on how to receive returnees safely and take them to various quarantine centers after necessary screenings. We must arrange sufficient quarantine centers and that should be our priority.
Our frontline workers should be given all the necessary gear, PPEs. They should not be given defective PPEs. In Nagaland, we have seen Robert N Solo who has filed PIL challenging the government for procuring cheap quality medical equipment for COVID-19. Besides, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio admitted ‘mismanagement gap and some miscommunication among the various functionaries.’
All persons entering Nagaland from May 18 onwards, irrespective of place of origin of the journey shall undergo 14 days Institutional Quarantine at designated centers and thereafter proceed for 14 days mandatory Home Quarantine, according to the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) issued on May 18.
The SOP, however, says persons above the age of 60 years, children below the age of 10 years, parents and pregnant women and accompanying spouses shall be thoroughly screened and on the advice of the Medical Team at the Quarantine Centre be sent for mandatory Home Quarantine for 28 days with active surveillance.
The SOP also says that it will not apply to persons who have already entered the State before May 18 from Orange/Green Zones and have not crossed Red Zones en route to the State.
Coronavirus will be with us for a long time. We should not panic as we must know how to live with it. Don’t forget to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Let us defeat this COVID-19, and it is only possible when we fight together.
Before the returnees reached their home states, heavy restrictions on the movement of people were imposed as if the virus was lurking everywhere. Now, as many reached Nagaland, already in quarantine centers, and also many tested positive for COVID-19, citizens seem fearless, while the authority becomes softer.
Senior journalist and author based in Kohima