Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has hinted at a lockdown in case there is a sudden surge in Covid cases which might overwhelm the fragile healthcare system of the state. Some elected representatives have other views and feel that a lockdown should be the last resort. The grim reality is that the poor are most affected by lockdowns; it’s a double whammy for them. For a large percentage of Meghalaya’s population the only source of income is from daily wages. The wages come from vending vegetables and fruits, running tea shops, driving taxis, masonry, carpentry and domestic work. A lockdown creates major disruptions in the lives of people otherwise gainfully employed in their own little spheres. It is cruel to snatch away livelihoods unless there is proper compensation for that loss. The truth is that there is no real compensation for the loss of livelihoods.
The West Shillong MLA, Mohendro Rapsang has pleaded on behalf of the vendors at Iewduh and said that any plans to lock down the biggest market of Shillong is not a favourable option. In fact, it is not an option at all. What is needed at this point is for all the 60 MLAs to meet and decide the best course of action. To decide on a lockdown can no longer be the brief of only the government. It requires collective decision-making by all law makers and also collective responsibility and accountability for the outcomes. To be fair to the MLAs, many of them assisted their most needy constituents with rations using funds made available through the MLA scheme. However, not all MLAs were on deck. Quite a few were not seen during the first phase of the pandemic, perhaps out of fear of being Covid infected. The thing with leaders is that they must always lead from the front. If they are missing from action at critical moments when their constituents need them the most then that leadership style is highly questionable. It is only a quest for power. Such leaders will hopefully be weeded out in 2023.
The role of traditional institutions in deciding lockdowns is also critical. The Dorbar Shnong are best placed to decide the best course of action in their respective localities. It is only through regular consultations with them and with the active participation of the MLAs that the government can decide on the various courses of actions. In these uneasy times, cooperation can work wonders. It creates a cycle of positivity that brings better results than fault-finding. The citizenry too must show responsible behaviour and mask themselves even while following other Covid protocols.