Post COVID-19 : Bleak days ahead:
Need to look beyond
The focus of the State Government at the moment is obviously on how to keep at bay the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Tough to say when a vaccine will come out with some even going to the extent of stating that the virus may be around till 2021 or even 2022. The lockdown and the restrictions that come along with keeping the virus at bay obviously means that people to people contact should be minimised to the lowest level possible and this means that the Government and the people will have to think beyond and ask what after the lockdown is lifted ? As noted many times earlier in this column, life after the coronavirus will not be the same. The question is how will people adjust to the new lifestyle that will be dictated by the apprehension of the virus and at the same time compelled by economic factors to resume life. While the more industrialised region of the country may worry about the impact the lockdown and the outbreak of the disease will have on large scale economic activities, here in Manipur it will be more basic but which will affect everyone. With hotels and eateries poised for a long, long lockdown, how will these small business houses revive after the virus is contained or how will the employees cope with the new harsh reality ? How about those who feed their families by plying three wheelers, such as auto rickshaws, taxis along the National Highways and between Imphal and other district headquarters, such as say between Imphal and Ukhrul ? How about those who run small eating joints at Khwairamband Keithel and other places such as Khoyathong Keithel, Singjamei Keithel, Keishampat etc ? And one here is talking only about Imphal. Imagine how the hotels at Sekmai, the popular eating joints for travellers between Imphal and Guwahati/Shillong must be faring.
The halt to these businesses, however small and insignificant they may have appeared will have a profound impact on how Manipur emerges after the pandemic. How about private school teachers and those engaged in teaching at the numerous coaching centres which have sprung up at many places in Imphal ? How are they faring ? How about their children who need the support of the parents and the elders of the family ? How about farmers ? True restrictions on farming and farm related works have been relaxed, but how far can this benefit those engaged in farming and agricultural activities ? This will definitely impact on the crop produce of the State next year, more particularly paddy and remember last year’s harvest was not at all good. One will also need to address the plight of the many who run small shops at the leiraks of every neighbourhood. How do they cope with the reality once the restrictions are lifted ? These are questions which will haunt everyone for these will directly impact on the life of the people as a whole. And remember there are many others who are living in other parts of the country working as sales girls and sale boys and in IT companies who may be laid off or not paid for months. Coronavirus has certainly taken a heavy toll with lakhs infected globally and thousands killed and while these figures are visible to everyone, what is not visible but can be directly attributed to the virus are the points that have been raised here. No easy answers on how Manipur should limp back to normalcy but this is a challenge for everyone and the Government should take the lead in formulating policies now to be ready when the full and complete impact of the virus is felt.