One of Sikkim’s worst curses has turned out to be a big blessing. Frustrated about the dysfunctional airport, snail-paced Sevoke-Rangpo rail project and the one and only crumbling highway – the (in)famous NH 10 – we had been sulking about our connectivity woes and administrative apathy. Little did we know that our isolated existence had an unseen blessing. For now, we can say that our immobility has helped us big time to stay safe thus far from the Covid 19 pandemic. However, the truthfulness of this statement is still hanging precariously. So far so good.
Data suggests that most road accidents happen near the homes of victims. Studies have revealed that drivers tend to skimp on paying attention, taking the familiarity of the road for granted. ‘Arriving home’ gives people a sense of ease and that’s when they become more careless and vulnerable to accidents. Let it sink into our ears that, in terms of fleeing from Covid-19, we are probably nearly home but not home yet. This is when we tend to become overconfident of arriving safe. It would be far too soon to even think of lowering our guard. Our joy of zero positive cases thus far is obviously blighted with fear and anxiety about many more tests still undone. We must reserve our euphoria and ecstasy for a future day.
The shocking news of the first Covid-19 death in North Bengal has given us more than enough reason to fight an extremely heads-up battle against it. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased who was only in her mid 40s. The Sikkim government has tracked down 10 of the 12 Sikkimese who were her co-passengers and has quarantined them. The authorities must find out if other people had a high-risk contact with the twelve. I also hope that we have been able to track down all the people who travelled into Sikkim from Covid-19 infected places in and outside the country in the last two weeks. I was wondering if an online ‘self-declaration form’ could be useful for people to voluntarily declare their travel history.
Those in positions of authority must not dismiss the call for caution as panic mongering. Nor should the government be overconfident and prematurely self-congratulate itself for pre-emptying the infection as yet. The US President Trump was foolishly boasting about the corona virus being under complete control of his government. He went so far as to declare ‘it is going to disappear one day’ like a miracle. And now the US leads the tally of positive cases with over 142,735 cases and 2,488 deaths. Unnecessary corona-jokes are sending a wrong signal to the general public. Keep your sense of humour to yourselves. Also, saying that Sikkim is a holy land and therefore we are safe, is an uncalled for statement. We may remain safe at this time – but such an attitude will make us a less alert society, thus making us more susceptible victims to future pandemics.
Call me an alarmist but I will not cease to ask ourselves to not take our eyes off the worst case scenario. When we are up against a formidable enemy like this, we can ill-afford to underestimate its strength and overestimate our strength. The most courageous fighters do fear their enemy. Cautious fear is not vice. The battle is far from being over.
Loose talk has begun to creep in. Presumptuous attitudes can be felt. In a time like this, we need the PROPHET Jeremiahs who warn us of the impending doom as much as we need PRINCES (authorities), PRIESTS and PEOPLE, who take heed and resolutely work towards avoiding the doom.
We know our responsibility – which is to cooperate with the authorities. We also have mutual responsibilities to our fellow beings. Our questions, reservations, suspicions, suggestions and commendations are worth consideration by those who are in responsible positions.
Epidemiologists and experts have been telling us that lockdown doesn’t solve the problem. It only gives us the window period. It is when we need to ramp up our tests.
Make no mistake about it, no human authority is in control, not even the haughty Trump. Let us concede our human finitude and listen to one another. Collective wisdom, folks.
Perhaps, never before did Sikkim need to be reminded more of Robert Frost’s legendary lines:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
“The shocking news of the first Covid-19 death in North Bengal has given us more than enough reason to fight an extremely heads-up battle against it. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased who was only in her mid 40s. The Sikkim government has tracked down 10 of the 12 Sikkimese who were her co-passengers and has quarantined them. The authorities must find out if other people had a high-risk contact with the twelve.”
By Jiwan Rai. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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