M. Asnikumar Singh

On new year’s eve, not a single soul, even in their wildest dreams imagined that 2020 would test their resolve like never before. What started as an outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan became a full blown global pandemic in the early weeks of March. Many were sceptical about India’s ability to cope effectively with a global pandemic. 8 weeks on, the whole world applauds India not only for its effective handling but also for its unparalleled aid to other countries during the crisis. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has undoubtedly shown his mettle of leading a post corona rebuilding through his decisive and uncompromising leadership, which has yielded fruit in the form of India having one of the lowest death rates and fewer cases than countries having far more developed healthcare systems and lower population.

‘Adversity reveals character.’

In the northeastern region of India, no leader has stood out more than our state’s Chief Minister N Biren Singh in the effective handling of the crisis. When water starts leaking inside a ship, the captain’s instincts will be the difference between the leaks being plugged or the ship sinking. In the case of Manipur, the captain not only showed the right instincts but led his fellow warriors with example.

His decision to implement thermal testing of incoming passengers at Imphal airport as early as 18th of January is a testament to his farsightedness of looming peril. The early and effective sealing of the state’s borders, provision of a special fund for Manipuris stranded in various states in India and outside the country have received widespread approval and genuine appreciation. Through this fund, an amount of Rs 2000/head has been deposited in the accounts of 35,357 stranded Manipuris outside the state. Screening at the state’s borders commenced as early as 31st January. International (Myanmar) border was fully closed in the early days of March. His proactive measure of setting up a full time command centre at the CM’s secretariat, which he himself commands has ensured full time, smooth monitoring of the fight against the pandemic in the state. All public transport system operating within the state were completely suspended from 22nd March. Only goods carrying vehicles were allowed, subject to driver and handyman being screened at the gates. Curfew under Section 144 CrPC has been imposed in all districts since 22nd of March. 3 Ima(Women) markets and temporary markets of Imphal city were closed from 21st March. Also, all the main women markets at District HQs have been closed and all street vendors have been banned. A robust multi level(State, district) surveillance system has also been set up. All those with international travel history were monitored and kept under institutional or home quarantine as required. Contacts of positive persons were put under surveillance and primary contacts were tested. This exercise was done not only for positive cases of Manipur but also for contacts of positive persons from Shillong (Meghalaya) and Bangalore – who had a recent travel history to Manipur.

These are just a fraction of state wide preventive measures which have been implemented and mind you many of these came into effect way before the whole nation went into lockdown. In the political culture synonymous with Congress era, leaders craved for praise and publicity and more so during natural calamities and crisis time. We Manipuris have been blessed with a leader who is a polar opposite of this. He has gone about his duty silently but at the same time has kept his dear people updated about the prevailing situation with firsthand verified information through his personal social media account, which itself is extremely rare in present day political culture. This is what makes him stand apart from the breed. An intriguing desire to connect to his people directly, which came in handy when 34 lakh people needed a true leader. A general needs his soldiers to be at their best when fighting a war and the frontline warriors (medical professionals, security personnel) of Manipur definitely brought their best to the table this time. The CM has repeatedly highlighted that Public cooperation and support was vital in the fight against COVID-19. By and large, people followed Govt. orders and guidelines. It was a collective effort. We have won the battle but the war still remains. With a leader like ours, who truly loves his people and the land our prospects don’t look bad.

(Writer is a Secretary of Manipur Thinkers Forum, which is an independent Think Tank base in Imphal)