By - Chinglen Khumukcham,
Thokchom Yaiphalembi Chanu
and Priyadarshini Laishram
The lockdown has been eased across the country. The districts have been categorized in red, orange and green zones. Though there has been easing of restrictions in the so-called orange and green zones, these relaxations are not evenly spread. In many places which fall in green and orange zones, the restrictions which came into force due to the lockdown are still prevailing. The state governments in many parts, content with the easing of their work including that of law and order during lockdown, are viewing it as a respite from their overburdened routinized work, and as such have allowed the restrictions to remain in place.
The case of such states is exemplified by Manipur. The Covid-19 cases which have seen an upward graph in various parts of India, have abated in North-east, and some states no longer have patients diagnosed with Covid-19. The partial lifting of lockdown across the country, with Manipur categorized in green zone on May 1, had brought hopes of resumption of daily activities for a vast section of the people in the state. But, such hopes lie dashed as the state government continues to hold the state in curfew, which came in effect on March 24, 2020.
It should be known that due to the ill-effects of lockdown, there has been widespread misery across the country. The brunt of such misery has been borne by the most vulnerable and marginalized sections, and the poorest of the poor. Contrary to the claims of both the central and state governments, the aid and essential rations have not reached the vulnerable sections and those most affected by the lockdown. The unprecedented misery imposed on the people could have been offset by the state government providing them Basic Minimum Income, so as to help them tide over the present crisis, and by allowing resumption of economic activities with adequate precautions, after Manipur was categorized in the green zone. But, no relief has been provided to the people on this front so far.
The order of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) dated May 1, 2020 specifically states “In the Green Zone, all activities are permitted except the limited number of activities which are prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of the Zone.” But, unfortunately the state remains in curfew. While the easing of lockdown has brought no relief for the people in the state, the insensitivity of state and district administrations along with the apathy of police has further left people in a state of despair. A vast majority of the people in the state have lost their livelihood due to the lockdown. Most of the people are daily wagers who belong to the poorest of the poor sections of the society. While there is no relief in sight for them, the curfew makes their plight even worse. Selected markets have been allowed to open, but curfew has marred normal functioning of these markets. The curfew passes which allow one to step out are allotted to selective people, as a large majority is forced to remain inside home. Moreover, the orders of various departments concerning restrictions on movement are contradictory, leading to further problems for the people.
There are daily reports of police detaining and imposing fines on people who violate the curfew. The daily amounts collected as fines indicate that the exercise is more for boosting the purportedly depleted revenues of the state than for any serious regard for maintaining law and order. The people being detained include even those who are venturing out for purchasing essentials. In such a situation, the possibility of citizen-police conflict increases manifold, which would further worsen the condition of the common people, especially that of the most vulnerable sections of society.
The ostensible reason for such a policy of continuing with the restrictions is to contain the spread of Covid-19. This is a questionable reason since Manipur was declared a green zone as there were no active Covid-19 cases in the state till very recent days when Covid-19 has once again shown a rise in the state. Imposing curfew on the whole population is a misdirected measure as it bars the people from carrying out their work related to their very livelihood. It should also be noted that the recent increase in Covid-19 cases is confined to people who have recently returned to Manipur. These people are already in quarantine centres and the possibility of their spreading the infection is tied with the state government’s alacrity in monitoring their movement.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to lift the curfew, and allowing economic activities to resume with necessary precautions in place, so as to enable the people to rebuild their lives, as much has been lost for them due to the lockdown. The provision of Basic Minimum Income by the state government to all the workers and those from socio-economically marginalized sections, most of whom are the worst affected, would go a long way in helping them tide over the present crisis.
The writers are associated with North-East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS)