Unlock 5.0 : Unlocking the economy Be wary of the festivals

Unlock 5.0 is on. The Centre has already come out with what can be further relaxed, leaving some crucial decisions such as re-opening schools after October 15 to the wisdom of the respective State Governments, but till the time of penning down this commentary on October 2 evening, the State Government was yet to come out with its version of Unlock 5.0. As in the earlier version of the Unlock series, the relaxation given by the Government should be seen in its correct perspective and just like before, the relaxations should be seen as the need to revitalise the economy of the people and the land and it is far from saying that the virus has been tackled. On the contrary, the infection continues to climb and so too the figure of deaths. Like in the rest of the country, the infection is climbing here in Manipur too and the crisis is unfolding in a manner worse than what was anticipated. Anticipation. This is the key word. The natural question is, is the State Government and its agencies ready for any eventuality that may come now that Unlock 5.0 is on and October is the month in which a number of festivals have been lined up-Durga Puja and Diwali-just to name two. Important to note too that these two festivals have been celebrated on a large scale mainly in the valley area, notably in Imphal East and Imphal West, the two districts which are leading the table of infection at the moment. These two festivals too are of importance at Thoubal, Bishnupur, and Kakching where population density is higher than the others and the infection rate too is high. The State Government must start applying its minds on these two festivals in particular now that Unlock 5.0 is on. Ideally the Government should start working on the blue print for further relaxation, keeping in mind the number of festivals lined up.
Come November and the harvest season of paddy will be on. This is where those who are directly involved in harvesting the year’s paddy, transporting the same etc will need to be reminded again and again that the virus is still out there active and kicking. November is also the month of Ningol Chakkouba, one of the biggest festivals of the Meitei community and with the easing on the restrictions, there will be exchange of gifts, rushing to the market, the fish mela (provided it is not cancelled due to the pandemic, but then again the Government will need to think about the fate of the numerous fish farmers), the gathering of family members. This is where local clubs, the numerous NGOs around etc will need to come together to urge the people to celebrate Ningol Chakkouba in a low key manner. Look beyond November and there is Christmas and Christmas eve, New Year and New Year eve and others too and this is the time for the Government to start working on how to manage these festivals. Reach out to the Christian bodies, such as All Manipur Christian Organisation, Manipur Baptist Convention, the Catholic organisations etc so that relevant notices, messages and the needed SOPs reach the people. Unlock 5.0 is on and there will be more relaxations as time progresses but this should not be taken to mean that the virus has been neutralised and this is the reason for the people to be more wary than ever before.