By Sujit Chakraborty
Guwahati/Agartala, March 28 (IANS) The northeastern states battled with issues of curbing the novel coronavirus pandemic while maintaining a non-stop supply of essentials, vegetables and medical necessities, all for which the region is largely reliant on the rest of India.
Because of its central location, food grains and vital essential commodities first reach Assam by train or by road before being ferried to the neighbouring six states – Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
An official of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) said that even though they are operating their freight trains as much as possible in the northeast but there are problems of loading and unloading of various commodities and cargos as the availability of workers become a difficulty in view of the lockdown and maintaining of social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Even as the NFR expanding the railway networks in all the states in the regions – five of the eight capital cities – Imphal, Shillong, Aizawl, Kohima and Gangtok are yet to connect with the railway network causing the dependence on trucks to ferry the goods by mountainous and landslide prone roads.
In Assam, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna directed Deputy Commissioners of all 33 districts to provide food and other essentials for seven days to daily wagers including rickshaw pullers, labourers and others stranded in the urban areas who are among the worst hit by the lockdown.
After reviewing the preparations and actions being taken to contain the spread of the pandemic, Krishna held a meeting of the state-level task force and issued a set of directives.
The Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup Metropolitan District had notified 66 places and localities in Guwahati and its outskirts, where vegetables would be sold from vans.The Chief Secretary had asked the officials of different departments to increase the area of coverage, as per the demand of the people.
Krishna also asked the manufacturing units of bread, biscuits, packaged water, rice mills and flour mills to carry on production with minimum workers, maintaining the social distancing norms.
Meanwhile, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb wrote separate letters to Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan urgently to sanction allocation of rice and transport fuel and cooking gas, respectively.
In Mizoram, the state’s influential NGO Young Mizo Association (YMA) are working from the front in all across the mountainous state and reaching out at the doorsteps to maintain supply of essentials and vegetables.
YMA volunteers and members are assisting the government officials and state, district and sub-divisional level task forces to keep the supply chain unhindered. Meanwhile, a cargo aircraft carrying the first consignment of various protective gear and equipments besides medicines from New Delhi arrived in Aizawl on late Friday evening.
Health Department officials said that another consignment comprising personal protective equipment kits, hand sanitizers, and various other medical necessities are on the way to Aizawl from Guwahati by road.
Meanwile, the samples of wife and children of the COVID-19 positive 50-year-old patient have tested negative. A Christian pastor from Mizoram had tested positive for coronavirus, making it the second case in the northeastern region following a 23-year-old Manipuri woman.
The Mizo man had returned to Aizawl from Amsterdam, via Delhi and Guwahati on March 16 while the Manipuri girl returned from the UK on March 21 via Delhi, Kolkata and Agartala.
Health officials in Imphal and Aizawl said that conditions of both are “stable”.
In Sikkim, Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang announced an economic package to provide immediate relief to people belonging to economically weaker sections.
The package includes provision of rice, pulses, edible oil, salt, potatoes and onions to families without a government job and a daily wage of Rs 300 for labourers working in all pharma companies operating in Sikkim during lockdown.
The Sikkim government has also announced a one-time monetary incentive of Rs 3,000 for various sections including Sikkim Police personnel engaged in screening and maintaining law and order, Health Department workers posted at hospitals and checkposts, truck drivers under state Transport Department engaged in carrying of essential commodities and ‘Safai Karamcharis’ working during the lockdown period.
The State Government has also decided to provide insurance to all these frontline workers, besides permitting the State Bank of Sikkim to allow three-month moratorium on all loans.
In Meghalaya, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma took to the streets in capital city Shillong to educate people about the practice of social distancing.
Sangma talked to people while urging them to maintain a distance of at least one metre between two people. The Chief Minister also asked the policemen on duty to ensure that people follow the guidelines.