Jeet Akoijam

Jeet Akoijam

Jeet Akoijam, Resident Editor of Imphal Times hails from Singjamei Liwa Road. Has been with Imphal Times since its start. A National level Rugby player and  a regular Trekker and Nature Lover, loves spending time in lap of Mother Nature. Jeet is the father of two lovely kids. Jeet can be contacted at [email protected]

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Friday, 14 August 2020 18:23

Emergence of the Covid contractors

Just the other day, there was news of a Covid-19 vaccine coming to the market in a few days time doing the rounds on social media, with reports of the US government securing advance supply agreements for 800 million doses for its 330 million population with five companies whose candidate vaccines are being considered to be the leading contenders to get approved. With more than hundred and fifty government research agencies and pharma companies scrambling for a vaccine to combat the present Covid-19 scourge which have brought the world to its knees, there is hope on the horizon, but time is of the essence and no expert have been able to state with any amount of conviction or certainty the exact time such a vaccine could reach the market, if ever one is developed. Meanwhile, the daily count of infections continues to rise gradually, and the state of Manipur is not exception to the unfortunate fact. And yet despite the ongoing and increasing danger, it is clearly evident that a large number of the public have been neglecting the only known and proven preventive measures of social distancing and using of face masks in public places. Compared to the time when the first Covid-19 positive patient was confirmed just a few months back, people have taken things too casually, and are even displaying defiant gestures and risking not only themselves but those around them to the contagion which had proven to create as much social and psychological damage as the virus itself, if not more.
Another worrying aspect of the present contagion that is emerging is that of the management- or rather mismanagement of the covid-19 positive patients in the state. There have been an increase in reports of negligence and even downright dismissal of the grievances and complaints of these patients by the authorities entrusted to oversee their well being. From lack of food to hygiene to concerns regarding total absence of manpower in various Quarantine centres in various parts of the state and even the Covid Care Centres housing positive patients. The emerging unfortunate trend is in stark contrast to the convincing assurances of adequate facilities and arrangements made by the state government at the onset of the present contagion just a few months back. If one would care to follow the developments regarding the arrangements and execution or implementation of the plans to combat Covid-19 in the state, one can clearly see a clear deviation from the declared plan of action. Imphal Times have earlier reported outsourcing of procurement of vital testing kits which the department should have arranged by itself, which is just the tip of the iceberg. There are reports of outsourcing arrangements for foods and nutrition, PPE kits and other aspects needed to keep the whole effort running smoothly. The contract culture that is rampant in the state has finally caught up with even COVID-19.
While such outsourcing offering contract for various parties or individuals for various aspects or components required in the fight against Covid-19 is not necessarily a bad thing, the underhanded manner of carrying out these activities reeks of nepotism and favoritism with personal gain as a greater consideration rather than lending support to the effort and making the whole exercise fruitful. If the state government is sincerely working to ease the burden and smoothen the administration of Covid-19 related activities with the sole objective of bringing about a positive result, it has to try and garner support for its action from the public, and only by gaining trust and goodwill of the public can such an objective be accomplished. This is arguably the worst time for doling out contracts, especially in matters relating to the fight for the most uncertain contagion in the recent history of mankind. The state government needs to draw up radical and sincere plan of action and not turn the present social uncertainties into opportunity for a few unscrupulous elements for personal gains.

On August 10, 2020, the Directorate of University and Higher Education, Government of Manipur issued a Memorandum which, citing Section 9 of the CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964, made it mandatory for all Government College Teachers and other staff working under the Higher Education Department, Manipur to obtain approval from competent authority before publishing or making statement regarding any Government policy or Programme in the media failing which appropriate disciplinary action may be taken. And as expected, a large number of academicians and intellectuals expressed outrage and indignation over the state directive which is widely viewed as regressive and runs counter to the idea of developing critical thinking. While it could be a pragmatic and even essential step in an organization or private business house to apply such restrictions, it would be erroneous to superimpose the values considered good and justified in such organisations onto the government as the ambit of the government is so overarching and all-encompassing that disallowing criticism of the government effectively means that one has to forego the right to freedom of expression almost completely. There is hardly any area of activity in the country which is beyond the purview of government policy. In fact no citizen, whether government servant or otherwise, can be deprived from holding and expressing views on issues that affect him on a personal level as it is directly linked to a citizen’s right to life and liberty. The vague idea of reasonable restrictions on freedom of expression on certain class/category can’t be so wide as to muzzle the freedom itself. The pertinent question arising now is what kind of reasonable restrictions need to be put on the category of citizens called ‘government servants’?
It is not justifiable to deny right to freedom of expression from the government servants. Mention may be made of two judgements of the Constitution bench of Supreme Court delivered in 1962 in which the court ruled that ‘merely because a person has entered government service, it does not mean they have surrendered those fundamental rights which are available to all citizens, and thus continues to enjoy the right to freedom of expression subject only to the categories of reasonable restrictions specified in the Constitution’.
 On a more pragmatic level, it may be detrimental to consider all criticism as harmful for the functioning and image of the government for the simple fact that criticism of many of the existing provisions of law have been instrumental in taking the society and country forward towards improved governance and enhanced welfare of the people. One can consider the debate around the Official Secrets Act leading to RTI Act, right to privacy and the ongoing case about Art 377 to appreciate that the criticism of the existing laws provides impetus for change for the better. In fact, a balanced, fact based and well-intended criticism is the life blood of every democracy and the governmental system also benefits from it. Forcing a muzzle on those who have a close understanding of the functioning of government and implementation of the policies including its lacunae, inherent biases and loopholes would deprive the system of an important input for improving the system of governance. Before stirring this sensitive and contentious issue out of control, perhaps the state government should  also consider the  doctrine of unconstitutional conditions which prohibits the State from denying citizens a benefit by making access to that benefit conditional upon citizens’ abstaining from exercising any or all of their fundamental rights. 
In such times when the government at the centre as well as the state are trying to bring in more transparency and public-centric approach towards governance, imposing of such restricting directives would mean contradicting itself and going back on its own words of increased public participation to governance and would ultimately project itself as a government which is more on the defensive and thereby connotes a compromising image.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 19:16

COVID Care centre opens in Tamenglong

IT News

Tamenglong, Aug 12:

With the increasing cases of COVID 19 in Tamenglong and a fear of local transmission Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong, Armstrong Pame today opened a COVID care centre with 120 beds at mini secretariat complex at Farmlane Tamenglong District Headquarter.

The new 120-bedded COVID care centre has 60 beds each with ventilation facilities for both male and females. After the inauguration, all COVID-19 positive patients were immediately shifted from Tamenglong Higher Secondary School to the new site at Mini Secretariat complex, which buildings were lying unused and vacant.

All the community quarantine centres which were opened in Tamenglong town areas will also be shifted to the mini secretariat complex Tamenglong after due repair of the old buildings.

The inaugural function was attended by SDO Tamenglong Mahesh Chaudhari, SDO Tousem Paul Nangsha, SDPO Tamenglong Josiah Pamei and others dignitaries.

As per the report from the CMO office Tamenglong, no new cases of COVID 19 were reported today from Tamenglong, till today total number of positive cases tested from Tamenglong is 241 people and so far 200 people were recovered from the COVID-19 and the active cases today remain 41 people and so far no deaths were reported from Tamenglong district.

All the returnees of Tamenglong district from different parts of the states are quarantine at Model High school, Preety Lamb Institute, DRDA guest house, Tamenglong higher secondary school and District hospital Tamenglong.

It would not be too far from the truth to remark that the common people of the state is still living in perpetual hope and nothing much more, given the spontaneous euphoria of the people when power changed hands in Manipur after a decade-and half of increasing nepotism, heightened state-sponsored terrorism, bureaucratic red-tapism and a plethora of cases of misgovernance have now given way to fear of expressing public opinions, stark mismatches between promises and performances; and outright dismissal of reports concerning misappropriation of public funds, to name just a few. Perhaps the unsavory recent developments in the political struggle reiterate the fact that politics of development and politics of power are contradictory, and that power does not equate performance.
The aspirations of the people for a transparent, empathic and decisive leader is still proving elusive, as the expressed intents and promises of these leaders are gradually turning into empty rhetoric and disappointment. What is more surprising is that despite the popular public perception that the present state government is one approved and appointed in line with the agenda of the Modi Government at the centre, there has been details of blatant violation of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 which the Prime Minister himself pursued for reforms to check nepotism and corruption amid much cheers and fanfare, as reported in Imphal Times against the Chairperson of Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR) on more than one count. The state government has still yet to react to the report despite the details presented in the report- yet another indication of the complicity of the high and mighty in such cases of misappropriations of huge public funds and abuse of powers. Such uncharacteristic silences of an otherwise vocal leader of the government lend greater credence to the perceptions of a compromised integrity and acquired irresponsibility. The misleading and misinformed rejoinder of the said chairperson to the report almost confirms the public perceptions.
Another report by Imphal Times on August 8 regarding the lack of kits for extracting RNA for Covid-19 testing at RTPCR, and the subsequent outsourcing of the procurement to contractors/suppliers these essential kits has caused concern to a large number of readers, but surprisingly the state government and the authority entrusted to handle such issue have so far remained silent on the matter. Creation of contracts for works which could or should be handled by the various departments are increasingly coming to light, and for now, the state government is following the ‘Silence is the best policy’, which in matters pertaining to the public is more than likely to backfire.
These emerging undesirable events have raised a very important question- who should the public turn to if those who are entrusted and elected to act for the welfare of the public turned a deaf ear despite presenting detailed reports and overwhelming evidences of wrongdoing by the government officials working in the public domain? In a state where the public is more suspicious and wary of resorting to legal resources, frustrations and mistrust is bound to build up over time.
While the constitutional powers of the Governor might not cover such issues or is beyond the jurisdiction of duty, being the nominal head of state, it is given that the primary function of the governor is to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and the law as incorporated in his/her oath of office under Article 159 of the Indian constitution in the administration of the State affairs. All his/her actions, recommendations and supervisory powers (Article 167c, Article 200, Article 213, Article 355, etc.) over the executive and legislative entities of a State shall be used to implement the provisions of the Constitution. The emerging worrisome trend may be considered a threat to the constitution of the country and what it was envisaged for, and the Governor should look into ways in which these issues can be directed to the authorities for rectification.
Changing the world starts with changing ourselves. If we cannot make right these petty issues despite the mounting proofs and pressures, change is inevitable and could mean the only way out of this recurring political nightmare.

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