A Disciplined Northeast
While the entire country is grappling with the rapid increase of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases, with the numbers having crossed the 70,000-mark on May 12, the north-eastern states of India have been faring quite well in containing the spread of the deadly virus thus far, with five of the eight states being declared coronavirus-free. This has earned praise from several Indian leaders. Union Health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan lauded the Northeast for its effective response to the global health crisis, while union minister Jitendra Singh said on Saturday that the region has emerged as a model in managing the contagious disease in India. Attributing the success to “disciplined” tradition and lifestyle of the people in the region and for taking government’s lockdown-related guidelines and advisories in “letter and spirit”, Singh said the rest of the country should emulate the region in combating the virus.
Whether the people of north-eastern region are more disciplined than their counterparts from other states is a matter of debate and it won’t be fair to draw a conclusion based on a single episode. However, it is a fact that the otherwise war-torn region, which is home to several armed groups, has fared well in containing the spread of the virus. The leaders of the region as well as the general public deserve praise for this feat, despite criticisms pouring in from civil society leaders and politicians over unpreparedness of the governments in the region. It is true that most of the states in the region were ill-prepared for the pandemic initially, but amid mounting pressure from the public, the respective state governments pressed into action and managed to improve healthcare facilities drastically within a short span of time, though a lot more needs to be done. It is also not possible to bring dramatic change overnight after decades of neglect both by the Central and state governments. Considering this factor, the incumbent governments have done reasonably well so far and they should continue to work towards building quality healthcare facilities while containing the spread of Covid-19 in the region.
However, the region’s efficacy in handling the crisis will be put to real test only when thousands of its stranded people come to their respective states in the next few weeks; public transportation avenues such as railways and airlines resume services; and the nationwide lockdown is lifted. In such a scenario, preventive measures such as hygiene and social distancing will play a vital role. If the virus penetrates into remote villages and towns where health infrastructure is almost non-existent, the situation can spiral into a catastrophe. To avoid such a grim situation, the government and the public should continue to fight against the invisible common enemy together and give no room for complacency. If the people remain vigilant, continue to follow guidelines set by medical experts and the government, wear protective gear, maintain sanitation protocols and follow social distancing even after the lockdown is lifted, there is a chance the region can effectively keep the deadly virus at bay. A “disciplined” Northeast can win the battle.