Our Common Goal — Safety
The announcement by the government of Nagaland to provide a one-time financial assistance of INR 10,000 to its stranded citizens, who wish to stay back in the places they currently live in, has sparked off a heated debate on social media platforms as well as offline. While some welcomed the relief package, others argued that the government should have worked on bringing back the stranded people instead of coming up with a mechanism to stop them from returning home. The relief announcement was made close on the heels of several civil society organisations expressing apprehension over the possible influx of people from orange and red zones, thus advising them to stay where they are unless very necessary. They argued that choosing to return home would not only expose them to the deadly virus but also includes the possibility of infecting their near and dear ones. But on the ground, many could be experiencing a lot of physical and mental trauma over the past few weeks since the nationwide lockdown began in March. And the pain will be intense when people confined to their rooms live with fear of harassment and discrimination. The state government might not have expected such a backlash over its move, but one should not forget that for some people in distress, nothing may help because all they want could be just to be in the company of their families. Safety is a relative term, hence the variation in opinion.
Now, it is important to look at the policy of the state government as well as the plight of the stranded people from various angles and work towards a common goal — SAFETY. We should avoid being pigeonholed into any specific opinion in the fight against Covid-19. A crisis of this magnitude should be tackled in a systematic way and through multidimensional approach, say quality healthcare facility, social distancing, personal hygiene, relief materials for the needy, etc. The state government’s relief package is just one of the strategies to effectively tackle the crisis, and so too is the effort to bring stranded people home. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has clearly said that the state won’t stop stranded people from returning home. This should clear the confusion once and for all. Whether or not the amount announced by the government could sustain a person for a month is subjective but it will surely help those, especially students who want to assess the situation for some more time before taking a final decision. It will also avoid quarantine centres from being overwhelmed by mass influx of people from outside the state. Not many states will have the facility to take in thousands of people at one go. Having said that, it is up to the individuals to either stay back or go home. The choice has been given to the people.
For those who have decided to come home, the government as well as the public should welcome them and provide a hassle-free stay at various designated quarantine centres. The stranded people could have gone through a lot of hardships, from financial problems to racial discrimination to harassment during the past 50 days. The government officials and civil society organisations should ensure that they do not face social stigmatisation and mental trauma. In the meantime, the returnees too should strictly follow the protocols set by the authorities during the quarantine period for their own safety and for their families. We should remember that it takes two wings to fly.