Covid-19 pandemic and finding our sisters on Worldpulse
We are all facing a global health crisis. Perhaps it's a reminder of the past deeds and decisions of the human race of manipulating the planet whichever way we deemed fit and now nature has it's own way to level out and make us see that the earth is a shared environment we share with plants and animals and other living beings and does not belong to just us. For those who believe that COVID-19 came from China, think again. A pandemic was inevitable from the way humans have destroyed ecosystems, mass at- scale deforestation, urbanization and industrialization poisoning our water bodies or destroying them. Animals and living beings and microbes are bound to be displaced from their natural habitats to cross over to the other side. Coronavirus animal to human transmission has a lot to do with what meets the eye. Let us retract our steps, reflect, charter a new course of learning to co-habit, respect other living beings and tide through COVID-19 pandemic by following government directives of social distancing and self quarantine. I wish all my sisters great health, resilience, positivity of spirit and god's grace during this challenging times.
World Pulse women have a great advantage during these stay-at-home times, we can read stories on www.worldpulse.com and comment on them to encourage each other. We can get acquainted to more women on World Pulse and learn about the wonderful work they do. We can converse with them to see if there are any common goals and work at a collaboration. The possibilities are endless and we must realise the advantage of this connection facilitated by digital technology which has the power of retention of social ties even amidst a pandemic, war, social unrest or catastrophes. We have something that no one has- we have a thriving, pulsating, vibrating sisterhood of 70,000 sisters spread across 190 countries, that's almost the entire earth.
There is an old saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going! And we know we are tough, sisters and its the time for us to get going on what we do best- building connections and bridges between people using digital technology and using technology to solve a global or local problem. Wishing us all the best!
The lockdown and its inherent problems
India was put under complete lockdown on 24 March 2020 for 21 days which concluded on 14th April only to be extended till the 3rd May 2020. This was a historical phase where we witnessed the largest mass exodus after the partition where migrant workers moved from their location of work mostly in cities towards their homes in villages. Many things could be observed during this time which are to be remembered for what they taught us.
When the lockdown was enforced, people had a big problem in staying indoors evident from how they swarmed out of their homes in large groups to fill the streets in different states around India after the 'Janta' (Public) Curfew defeating all the purpose of calling for a nationwide commitment on social distancing.
Made me wonder how difficult is it to stay at home? When we are at school or college, we dreamt of not having to go for class daily and for some leisure time at home. At office, we dreamt of spreading on our beds, catch a nap and have a quiet day reading the newspaper and watering the pot plants. Now when we have that opportunity, people have difficulty in remaining inside their homes. It’s as if we are compelled to do the opposite of what life provides us. Also, an important thing to analyse for those who have to go out in hail or storm is to understand who they are trying to escape – anybody at home or their own company!
In these many days we all know what we need to know, thanks to WhatsApp University but constant overthinking can turn anyone into a nerve wreck and just when you need all your wits about to respond to a very serious situation, you may actually work against that goal in your anxiety. I am avoiding few people these days whose day starts and ends with Corona virus messages and discussions. My blood pressure shoots up in their company and I have to resist the temptation to shut down windows and draw curtains.
Different possible roles that the lockdown brought for people
There is a role for everyone in these trying times where we are home bound as long as you are not the neurotic or hypochondriac who can make anyone want to go up the wall spreading your panic. A doctor in my neighbourhood in Bengaluru has offered free medical consultancy through phone and video calls and delivery of medicines to our doors during this lockdown. Individuals are making donations to sponsor grocery and other essential supplies to help 60 students of a college who are stuck inside when the 21- day lockdown was enforced without prior information for them to make arrangements. Few NGOs and CSOs are helping labourers and daily wage earners in distress due to the coronavirus crisis. People are also donating to these NGOs to support the daily wage earners. Some NGOs are working to provide food to people who are unable to access food during the lockdown and help with medical emergencies and are mobilizing people to volunteer. Some individuals sponsored masks for the building security personnel, domestic help, newspaper vendors and friends who could not access one, others helped their apartment society management to formulate the precautionary protocols for the residents of the building, installing notices in common area and enforcing these guidelines.
Certainly, this crisis is not just for the medical and health staff, the police, municipality and other essential service sector but requires participation and contribution of the common (wo)man too. It’s a person choice to be part of the problem by spreading panic or the other extreme of dismissing government regulations of social distancing, self- quarantine and testing in case of symptoms or be part of a solution by looking after themselves, their families, and neighbours-being responsible and helping others by using their talent or resource.
The pandemic and lockdown amplified existing societal inequalities and social evils even more
India's size of population, density, malnutrition, high incidence of diabetes, heart diseases, lung diseases, lack of medical infrastructure in the peripherals pose the biggest challenge for the country to meet the needs to combat Coronavirus and adding to the list is the quality of health service we can expect. Recently the thermal scanning exercise in Tumkur Railway station in Karnataka was in public eye for the negligence of the Senior Heath Assistant, Mr. Narasimhamoorthy who was testing temperature of travellers half- heartedly while busy talking on the phone. People reported about his irresponsibility in duty in such critical times to contain COVID-19 and he was suspended thereafter. Such can be the quality of the surveillance in India as opposed to the big talk and assurances of our politicians.
Incorrect information, fake news and the efficiency with which they are being passed on and registered by recipients is leading to utter confusion, inconvenience and can also prove to be fatal. I got a prescription for treatment of COVID-19 as a forward last night. The person who is passing down prescriptions has little realization that prescriptions are case specific. The message prompts to go buy the medicines as soon as possible as they would soon be unavailable. Circulation of such prescriptions can do more harm than good because there is a reason why we are required to be examined by a doctor. Trying to be a doctor with no education or training in the stream is a futile exercise. We must check the information we receive after referring to the right authority like World Health Organization, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Indian Council of Medical Research and so on.
During this tensed atmosphere of infection, mortality and uncertainty the ugly tentacles of reports of racial discrimination of north easterners emerged from different corners of India. With people assigning blame to the Chinese for ‘bringing COVID-19 into the world’, their mismanagement of its spread and wildlife animal consumption world over Asians are at the receiving end of physical attack, abuse and discrimination. North easterners in India have also reported discrimination at workplace or at public places, some verbal some in the form of physical attacks. A lady clinical doctor in a reputed medical college in Maharashtra had to face taunts on the road, in the marketplace even in the hospital she works in where people called out corona virus on seeing her. A flight attendant with Air India was also a victim of name-calling and things went a little too far with a girl from Manipur when a man spat on her face before fleeing on a white scooter in New Delhi. A police complaint was lodged and the man has been arrested.
I am afraid Corona virus is giving an excuse for people to resort to racial abuse of north east people living in other parts of India. The struggle for inclusion and mainstreaming of north easterners in India has never really picked up, not at the national level nor at the regional level and at the local level it's not even an agenda. Every other community has been able to reach somewhere when it comes to their identity and entitlements but for the people hailing from the eight states of northeast. The long- standing human rights concern regarding racial discrimination of north easterners when they move to other parts of the country for education and livelihood have been sporadic but consistent over the years and should have been addressed long ago and not waited for the global crisis that engulfs us now. The relocations happen because our region does not have good schools and colleges or the learning atmosphere. The lack of support, awareness of our rights, insensitivity of law enforcement agencies towards our identity all amplify the current crisis for north easterners further.
What is equally alarming are the fake news and incorrect information being circulated about racial attacks in cases which are accidental deaths or from prolonged sickness and individuals and media persons are not validating these rumours and quick in their circulation. For example, a Naga guy died in Bidar district in Karnataka from a fall and head injury but there was a social media splash assigning it as a hate crime. In spite of clarifications from the Naga Students Union Bangalore (NSUB) and Northeast Welfare Association of Karnataka (NEWAK), few media groups still carried the news of a murder caused by racial discrimination.
Fake news about racial attacks like these will do as much damage because they will build hatred and distrust especially in times like now rift with tension over COVID-19 and in case of needing medical attention, north easterners will be afraid to access healthcare and support systems and greatly limit access to tracing, testing and treatment. This in turn will only cripple the efforts of public health and government authorities in saturating infected and affected persons. Marginalized and minority communities have to be ensured an enabling environment by the government so the overall approach to contain COVID-19 is holistic. Also interesting is, the same people who are biased towards north easterners need to see how COVID-19 cases are rising in every part of India except for the northeast.
This being said, I know we are witnessing history and amidst all the unsettling emotions in a day I tell myself to read up about it as much as I can so one day, I can tell my grandchildren about it. The current times is also a test of our faith and spirituality. The situation can bring our worst to resurface and so can it bring the best in us. It’s also a litmus test of who are our real friends and who love us genuinely from those who are reaching out to us often, sharing vital information, helping us in managing our household supplies, food and medicines, that dose of humour to keep us going and being there for us. ‘Stay safe’ is quickly replacing take care in our personal interactions. Of all the times we need to remember now that every night has its dawn.