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With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a 21-day nation-wide lockdown from the midnight of March 24, the battle in the right earnest against Coronavirus (Covid-19) has finally begun in Assam along with the rest of the country.

Interestingly, the national lockdown began six hours after a 7-day state lockdown got underway in Assam from 6 pm on the same day. While the conscious circle is of the view that the lockdown should have been imposed a few days earlier, the important question that obviously surfaces in the matter of the preparedness of the Centre, the state governments and more particularly of the Assam government pertains to the effectiveness of the government (s) to confront the deadly virus squarely and headlong.

It may be highly pertinent to state at this juncture that the Assam Government along with its health department and the administration almost criminally bungled with the first suspected Covid-19 case in the state. A minor girl in Jorhat was declared as Covid-19 positive by no lesser a person than the Deputy Commissioner of Jorhat after the health department played havoc with the blood sample of the child.

Fortunately for the patient and the people of the state, in less than 24 hours another test proved the earlier test results to be wrong and the minor girl was declared as unaffected by Covid-19.

Thankfully, as of now, the Assam government is seemingly, but definitely belatedly, beginning to gear up to build the necessary infrastructure to confront the Covid-19 threat. If the almost daily statements made by the Assam Health Minister are to be believed, the necessary health facilities, including exclusive Covid-19 treatment centres and quarantined centres, to tackle the deadly virus would very soon be in place.

How far the minister’s statements translate into reality would also be known very soon. However, the unpardonable bungling of the first suspected Covid-19 case in the state could possibly have enhanced to a significant extent the deficit-trust of the public towards the sincerity, dedication and effectiveness of the state health department and the government in the battle against Covid-19.

While it is the cardinal duty of every citizen to abide by the rules of the nation-wide lockdown as announced by the Centre, a huge section of the people in Assam, particularly of the younger generation, are trying to reduce the move of immense importance against Convid-19 into a silly joke.

Proving to be highly notorious, these people seem to be adamant not to allow the lockdown to be in place peacefully. While the essence of lockdown is for every citizen to stay at home and not to venture on to the streets to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the same has been wantonly and non-chalently violated by a sizable section of the public, mainly youths of both the genders.

While the police are being compelled to resort to tough measures, including beating and caning of the violators of lockdown, almost all observers feel that there is no way out, other than applying rude physical force on the unruly lot if the lockdown is to be kept going.

In fact while Covid-19 is posing a huge threat to everyone, every family, society, state and the nation, those violating the lockdown are only proving to be huge liabilities to every member of the society. These unruly people do not seem to realize that it is the duty of every citizen to make constructive contribution in the fight against Coronavirus-19 by way of keeping oneself self-quarantined at home.

Although the chapter on positive Covid-19 at the national level began sometime in February, it was only on Monday last that the first Covid-19 positive case came to light in Manipur in the whole of the North-eastern region. As is the reality in the matter of the rise of Covid-19 cases which is by multiplication, the second positive case was reported the next day (Tuesday) from Mizoram. In both the cases the Covid-19 positive persons came from abroad just a few days ago

Since quite sometime, practically all the state governments of the Northeast have been making bombastic statements that they were prepared in full battle gear to confront the Corona threat. Shamefully, now that two Covid-19 cases have struck the Northeast, most of the states in the region have been found to be deficient in the infrastructural arena to confront the virus.

Meanwhile, continuing with high-sounding statements and rhetoric, the state governments are making tall announcements of the needful infrastructure to be in place ‘within days’. It is important to note that the statements are fully or partly in the future tense and what future tense means in politics is anybody’s guess.

On the other hand, both the Centre and the Assam government have made the announcement that there would be no shortage of essential food items. The towering statement that price of all food items would be kept under control has also been made. Significantly, since independence, control over the price line of essential commodities, including food items, and tall announcement thereon have proved to be a huge and continuing political joke at the expense of the common man.

As of now, what the political and bureaucratic heavyweights would not like to hear or pretend not to know the fact that within hours of the national lockdown coming into force, the price of ‘atta’ shot up to Rs 50/- in some grocery shops in Guwahati. Is there some mechanism to effectively keep the price line under control? Or will the high announcement on price control presently made by Dispur only add to the reservoir of jokes?

May one ask as to when members of the public fail to get their legitimate task done even after countless visits to government offices and dispatch of a chain of reminders, would a simple phone call work the magic when the lockdown is in place?

Further, it is not quite known as to what measures Dispur has taken for thousands of homeless/shelterless people in the state. The stone-heartedness of the police and the Centre towards homeless workers in Delhi has been clearly projected by a few national TV channels. With the nation coming to a grinding halt, some poor, shelterless and helpless workers have  been shown to be undertaking the challenge of walking all the way from Delhi to their villages in Aligarh or cycling all the way to Bihar.

Will Dispur speak out as to what measures are being taken to reduce the burgeoning sufferings of the poor and the homeless in the state with the lockdown in place?

So far as Guwahati is concerned, by way of update it may be added that with the government allowing to sell vegetable and other food items, a massive market sprang up in this morning (Friday morning) near the old jail complex at Fancy Bazar in the city and people in thousands crowded the market.

The vital factor of social distancing was reduced to zero with people clearly in physical touch with one another. Finally the police had to close down the market. Hence, in view of our shameless immaturity, the vital question arises if we shall at all be successful in fighting Covid-19.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com