[avatar user=”Rajkumar Bobichand” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file” target=”_blank”]RAJKUMAR BOBICHAND[/avatar]
While India-wide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic enters fourth day on March 28, Manipur has entered second week of practical shut down as main markets of the State have been closed down effectively since March 21.
People of Manipur were shocked and on high alert after a 23 year-old woman from Imphal West was tested COVID-19 positive on March 24, 2020 by Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS), Imphal. She was studying in UK and landed in Delhi on March 19 and arrived at Imphal on March 21. This is also the first COVID-19 positive case in India’s Northeast. The girl is reported stable and recovering fast.
Public panic spread faster than COVID-19 in Manipur thereafter and people of different localities began fencing their entry points and inter village roads as if it could block the spread of COVID-19. These are causing immense disturbances to the flow of essential services like movement of water tankers, ambulances, doctors and paramedics etc. Predictably, these will be even bigger nuisances when it comes to medical emergencies and fire catastrophes.
In an effort to assure the people, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren announced on March 26 that 1,84,375 passengers coming from outside state have been screened, of them 486 came from COVID-19 infected countries and 55 were foreign nationals and they are under close monitoring. Another 331 have completed their surveillance period. The Chief Minister further assured that steps have been taken up to fight COVID-19 in Manipur. It may be mentioned that Indo-Myanmar Border has been sealed from March 10. A COVID-19 Common Control Room has been opened 24×7 in the Darshan Hall of Chief Minister’s Secretariat Complex.
Moreover, 10 cabinet ministers have been assigned in charges of the different districts to look into the actions being taken up to fight the pandemic and public distribution of foods and essential services provided to the people of Manipur.
Deputy Chief Minister, Yumnam Joykumar will be in charge for Imphal West District while Minister of Works, IPR, RD&PR, Thongam Bishwajit for Imphal East District; Minister of Art and Culture, Health and Family Welfare, L Jayantakumar for Bishenpur District; Minister of CAF&PD, Karam Shyam for Jiribam District; Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Letpao Haokip for Chandel District and Tengnoupal District; Minister of Tribal & Hill Areas and Fisheries, N Kayashi for Tamenglong District and Noney District; Minister of PHED, L Dikho for Ukhrul District and Kamjong District; Minister of Agriculture, Veterinary & Animal Husbandry, V Hankhalian for Churachandpur District and Pherzawl District; Minister of Social Welfare, Nemcha Kipgen for Kangpokpi District and Senapati District; and Minister of Education, Thokchom Radheshyam for Thoubal District and Kakching District.
To fight COVID-19, the Government of Manipur has created Chief Minister’s COVID-19 Relief Fund with a corpus fund of Rupees 10 crores following a State Cabinet meeting on March 23.
The state government appealed to the people to contribute to this Fund for which an account has been opened with the Manipur State Co-operative Bank Ltd.
The account number is 70600875695 (IFSC Code: YESBOMSCB01 and MICR Code: 795808002), says an official press statement issued after the Cabinet meeting.
The Cabinet further resolved that all Cabinet ministers will donate a month’s salary to the Manipur State Covid-19 Fund. The Cabinet further appealed to all the government servants to donate a day’s salary to Manipur the State COVID-19 Fund, it added.
However, there were complaints from passengers who arrived at Imphal Airport on March 24 that they were stamped with the seal of Home Quarantined on their hands and told to stay home without asking if they have facilities for Home Quarantine at their houses. Passengers further complained that the stamping of Home Quarantined seal and filling up and submission of form for particulars of the passengers were not well organised. There were chances of infecting the next person if virus was on the hand of the first person.
Director of Health Services Dr K Rajo Singh said that Quarantine Centres for every district of Manipur are opened. Fourteen Quarantine Centres are functional as on March 28. State TB Hospital, Wangkhem with 29 persons and National Sports Academy, Khuman Lampak with 21 persons functional in Imphal East district while other 4 places are also identified in case these two are not sufficient. Unacco School, Meitram with 36 persons and Imphal Valley Academy with 33 persons are functional out of 5 places identified to run as quarantine centres in Imphal West district. Thoubal District Hospital with 10 persons and Genius School with 22 persons are functional in Thoubal district. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Bishenpur with 14 persons is functional for Bishenpur district. 3 persons are quarantined in Ukhrul District Hospital. 17 persons are quarantined at Electricity Circuit House for Tengnoupal District while 2 persons are quarantined at JNV, Chandel for Chandel District. 21 persons are quarantined for Churachandpur District at Bijang Circuit House. 2 persons are quarantined at Senapati District Hospital. 2 persons are quarantined for Kangpokpi District at Kasturba Gandhi Balika School. For Kakching District 2 persons are quarantined at JNV, Umathel. Moreover, 8 beds at Jivan Hospital are set up as isolation ward in case of eventuality. 391 persons are Home Quarantined in Kakching District. Tamenglong District, Kamjong District, Noney District and Pherzawl District also have quarantine facilities but not functional yet as no person is identified for quarantine. According to Tamenglong district administration sources, 102 persons are Home Quarantined in Tamenglong district while they have set up 70 beds for institutional quarantine and 17 beds as isolation wards in case of eventuality.
Sources from the Health Services said that altogether 200 people are quarantined at the centres instituted by the government and 47 persons have been tested till March 27 and only the 23 year-old woman is positive who is now under treatment at JNIMS and showing signs of recovery.
However, inmates and their family members at the Quarantine Centres are not satisfied with the facilities available and services rendered there. There were complaints of not providing lunch till 3:30 pm at the JNV, Bishenpur Quarantine Centre on the first day. The personnel of the State TB Hospital, a quarantine centre of Imphal East district expressed the shortages of bed sheets for inmates; masks, gloves and PPE for paramedics. Unavailability of disinfectants and moping equipments to clean the centre makes unhygienic. Inmates at the centres are apprehensive of infecting COVID-19 easily once a person is infected due to the unhygienic environment of the centres. Unavailability of ambulance at the centres also makes them feel insecure.
Monitoring teams under Home Department consisting of Secretaries and Doctors are constituted to monitor the quarantine centres with effect from March 26. Separate monitoring teams of Health Services are also set up to fight COVID-19 in Manipur.
When asked to the Hospital authorities how far they are equipped with protective gears, there is no satisfactory answer. Their answer is they have Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) but they are not able to disclose the total number of PPEs available with them. The ventilators available are also single digit so far. What is evident is that the team who is taking care of the 23 year-old COVID-19 positive person wear PPE and well protected.
Fighting for Survival
Though the lockdown is imperative and a must, the preparedness to survive in the total lockdown and supply of survival ration for the people is the need of the hour. Many daily wage earning families are facing a hard life now as their ends meet on daily basis and they have not been earning since March 21.
Now, in reality daily wage earners and low-income families who don’t have foods stocked are really fighting to keep their kitchens burning. Even those who have money cannot buy as the local shops are running out of stock and no vegetable vendors.
Announcement for distribution of rice to NFSA and CMHT card holders after Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has assured that the government has a plan to provide rice at free of cost for three months comes to a brief relief.
Chief Minster has further assured that one month’s expenditure for rice will be the responsibility of the State Government while the Union Government bears the expenditure of another month. Rice for the third month will be provided at a nominal price of Rs. 3 per kg.
However, non-card holder daily wage earners and low income families were not relieved at the announcement as they were not covered under the scheme to supply rice.
After criticisms and suggestions from the public, the Government has started to distribute rice to people irrespective of BPL, NFSA or CMHT card holders in some places. Chief Minister has announced that the present distribution is April month’s quota to meet the needs of the people.
Unfortunately, the quantity of rice being distributed to the public is not uniform. In some places 2.5 kg of rice per voter is given while 3 kg of rice per head is given in other places. In some places 5 kg per voter and its multiples according to the numbers of the voters in the household is given while 5 kg of rice is the share of family in some other places. 4 kg per person and its multiples according to the list of the members of the family in the ration card in some places. In some places, lump sum 7 to 10 kg of rice is given to every household irrespective of card holders and non-card holders.
These are contrary to what Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s assurance of providing rice at free of cost at least 4 kg per person.
Upon inquiry, people living in different parts of the state said they are not still getting the rice provided by the government. Even the 7 kg of rice is grossly sufficient to feed a daily wage earning family of 5 persons for about a month of lockdown.
Households in Imphal Urban area that get pipe water may be counted on finger tips. People solely depend on private water supplies and tankers. Without sufficient water to wash hands frequently is hard to fight COVID-19 and survive the lockdown.
Distribution of few kg of rice and running quarantine centres without basic utilities cannot be considered as full preparation to fight COVID-19 and survival. There are other essentials too to just survive a life. Honesty, sincerity and transparency are required on the part of the government and its agencies. The state has to manage to provide these basic foods by all means available to them if the government is really determined to contain COVID-19 pandemic. The Government should be prepared and ready by any means to conduct as much test as possible for every person who shows any symptom of COVID-19. On the other hand, people have to be resilient in this crisis period.
If Manipur government is not prepared fully and ready to provide survival ration to those who can’t afford to buy during lockdown; and to make foods and other essentials available at key and convenient places so that those who have money can buy, the situation will be gloomy and lawlessness can’t be ruled out.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics