Rev. Dr. S. Temjen Imchen
Professor of Old Testament
Serampore College, Serampore
With a hope on our Government to prevent and control the Covid-19 fight effectively, I write this article from a theological as well as practical standpoint. Let us break up into four parts:
- A Congratulatory Note to Frontline workers of Coronavirus:
I, first of all, wish to thank in general the Government of Nagaland for adhering to the nationwide lockdown for two weeks at first and now extended to two more weeks of staying indoors. In particular, our heartfelt thanks go to all the frontline health care workers/doctors & nurses, police personnel, drivers and cleaners, churches, individuals, civil society organisations/colony volunteers, etc, in the state of Nagaland who are involved in Covid-19 prevention and control. We congratulate all of you for standing up for our safety. I would like us first to turn our attention to the biblical and theological standpoint as we encounter this deadly virus in our context today.
- A Biblical & Theological Voice to the Covid-19 Fight:
I begin by asking a question: Is Coronavirus a divine intervention in human history? Our answers are not easy to come by. However, we agree that the novel coronavirus – whether it is human-made or from the divine – is a clarion call from God to the humanity. From a biblical perspective, there is no greater cataclysmic happening than the covid-19 which has caused so much of human misery and deaths. It is only next to the biblical Flood that submerged the whole earth in Noah’s age (Genesis 6-9). Is God angry with humanity? Where have we gone wrong as the image-bearers of God? Perhaps, the Creator God is angry with human beings for their greed for economic power and the sins we committed in multiple ways and therefore we have “come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). People of the world are still weeping and groaning for deliverance! In human history, we are witnessing such a disastrous period like today only next to the horrors of Second World II. Sadly, the most advanced countries are the most affected ones by this pestilence. It is not a respecter of the rich or poor nation or its people. It makes the entire humanity cry and mourn over the sufferings and deaths. Is there any end to such human tragedies? No, there is no surety and medicine that can cure this virus as of now. Then, where do we turn to for safety and deliverance? Is this the sign of the end times? Or, even the signs of the Second Coming of Jesus? To the faithful, the Bible has given us the answer. Let us one example from the Bible. In Mathew 24:6-8, one of the signs of the Lord’s return is that disasters will occur in the world. Coronavirus has come in the form of ‘pestilence’ in the entire surface of the earth. As we search for answers to this mystery of God, let us be ready all the time to face any eventuality. On a spiritual realm, let us be watchful “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matt 24:44). As humans – you and I must consciously play our role in order that we get to see the light at the end of this tunnel.
We have a hope in our creator God that our prayers will be answered in His own times. Yet still, we must obey the rules of our earthly government which will make our life situation better. As a forward move, we the citizens have a right to demand for a change. That is, a change not in the govt at the moment, but a change in the system of governance with the present Govt. Amidst other clamours for the needed change, the urgent call and citizens’ voice from all corners from Nagaland is to have better healthcare facilities, including the need for setting up of a Testing Laboratory for Virology in Nagaland.
- An Urgent Need for a Regional Diagnostics Centre on Virology in Nagaland:
As of now, we solely rely on Assam and Manipur (I cite just two neighbouring states) to do the vital medical tests. Practically and scientifically, medical tests such as Covid-19 cases, viral and epidemic diseases cannot be done in Nagaland, because our state does not have one! A few practical problems must be identified for our discussion. First, in trying times like these when there is already one +ve case from Nagaland and many vitals tests to be done, going to Guwahati and Imphal is time-killing. Second, while the results are awaited there outside our state, how much mental and physical trauma will the patient/s have to endure here? Third, if the Assam and Manipur states are facing the same problem and have their own tests to be done, they will give priority to their cases, then to other states later. Fourth, it is scientific and technical. Are all the tests undertaken in those centres foolproof and scientifically compliant? We do not know. But, whether it is technically safe or not, the fate and lives of many patients from Nagaland are surreptitiously left at the mercy of those diagnostics labs outside the state. Hence, the wishes of the people of the state for having better healthcare facilities must be the paramount importance of the present govt led by our honourable CM – Shri Neiphiu Rio and his cabinet colleagues, Chief Secretary and others. Our govt must listen to these silent voices arising out of the dire situations as of now. Setting up of a Regional Diagnostics Centre for Virology in a convenient place in Nagaland on an urgent basis will help the people of our state scientifically and economically not only during the Covid-19 juncture but for the future well being of the state and her subjects.
- An Advocacy for an Effective Govt!
In trying times like these, we look upto to our Govt as the earthly Messiah! But pat comes the question: Is our government and her machineries doing enough for her citizens? They do their part to a large extent. But somewhere, people are sceptical about following the current Lockdown rules. People are wondering as to why and how we got the first covid-19 positive case in Nagaland amidst the strict rules for which the local newspapers reported extensively on April 14 (2020). This is unbecoming and even so scary. But we still trust our Govt to fix the loopholes under the quarantine rules. Hope they are being rectified and even strengthened. Obviously, it is possible on the part of our Govt machineries for careful handling of the quarantine rules. In short, let this incident be a warning to everyone, particularly the healthcare officials and other state officials dealing with the present crisis. I, like everyone, support the policies of our government that deal with pragmatic ideas and steps. The other issues related to the present catastrophe are on the receipt of central funds and its utilisation. The public is happy to learn that Nagaland state has received from the Centre its first installment of Rs 20.50 crores under the State Disaster Response and Mitigation Fund (SDRMF) for the year 2020-21, as per the sources of the Govt of India as on April 5, 2020. So, our state should do well when it comes to relief package to tackle the current crisis. The government knows very well how to plan and spend it. But the central fund meant for the people of the state must be utilized judiciously. Through the central relief funds, bonus to the doctors and nurses, civil supplies to the poor and needy, daily wage earners, BPL families and deserving people of the state must be given. There will be peace tomorrow if there is justice today! Once again, we the citizens sincerely but strongly appeal to our Govt to strictly implement the Stay-At-Home rules hereafter! The Govt comes first in this fight, then the public next. This is the time for effective, confident, and smart Government!