Understanding the easing of the lockdown: Responsibility of all

Let it be very clear. It is certain economic activities that will be allowed in areas which are not COVID-19 hotspots from April 20 and not for social gatherings. This is what the Centre has outlined and come out with a lengthy list of such activities which may be exempted from the lockdown and the restrictions placed on the activities and movements of the people. The relaxation in certain economic activities is understandable for as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the Nation on April 14, wherein the extension of the lockdown was announced, the cornerstone of the speech was “jaan bhi, jahan bhi” (lives as well as livelihood). The State Government too has lined up a Cabinet meeting tomorrow (April 20) to study and decide ‘activities and items on which restrictions can be fully or partially lifted in a phased manner.’ That the State Government has taken this seriously can be gauged from the fact that it has deemed it fit to address the relaxation question with the rider, ‘fully or partially’ and in a ‘phased manner.’ It is also equally important for all to come to the realisation that lifting the restrictions, whether partially or fully in a phased manner, will entail responsibilities from all concerned. Just how willing or ‘educated’ enough are the people to responsibly respond to the easing of the restrictions is where the crux lies. With experts predicting that the virus may be around till 2021 or even 2022, lifting or relaxing the lockdown cannot and should not be equated with nullifying the virus that causes COVID-19. Far from it, the relaxation in certain key economic activities should be seen in the context of saving lives and livelihood and this calls for the co-operation of everyone.
As observed, the relaxation should be seen as a necessity to ensure livelihood activities and should not at all be taken to mean that the green signal has been given to resume life as it was before the onset of COVID-19. Changes in lifestyle is what is called for and how willing are the people to adapt to the new reality will decide how successful is the attempt of the Government to keep the virus at bay. This is important for remember there is as yet no vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19 and people will need to maintain discipline in their life to ensure that there is no second wave of the virus. At the moment Manipur is COVID-19 free with the second patient returning a negative result for the second time today but this should not mean that the people and the Government can take it easy, for a slight slip can lead to a second wave and this could be disastrous for all. And this is where the Government would need to be very careful while deciding which sector or activities the restrictions should be eased. Agricultural activities is one such area which the Government may seriously consider. This is the kharif crop season and in May the time would have come for farmers to start tilling the field for paddy cultivation. Rice, this is the staple diet of the people of Manipur and any drop in crop production will hit everyone hard and remember last year the rice production was extremely poor, thanks to a poor Monsoon. Manipur can ill afford two consecutive years of poor harvest. This fact should be kept in mind and the Government should employ the media at its disposal primarily radio to educate the farmers to maintain physical distancing when they go out to work on their fields.