COVID-19 Lockdown: Mizoram, India sets an example

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A Mizo blogger known as Mizohican blogged about how Mizoram was setting an example to the country by maintaining lockdown in a disciplined way by not coming out of their homes and also observing social distancing.

Nagas Connect got in touch with the blogger and expressed our delight to read his post. He readily agreed to share his blog post and photos with us.

He writes:

“So, with 9 days of lockdown here in Mizoram so far, life had taken a sudden twist. What was once a busy street or a bustling market had turned into an eerie ghost town, with dried leaves blowing across the deserted roads and pavement.”

“Just miles and miles of empty roads, not a single soul or vehicle out on the streets. This is the spirit of Mizoram. We obey the rules, especially when we know it is for our own good..”

He goes on to say that the people demanded the Lockdown to be enforced when the District Magistrate issued an order to relax the curfew time for a few hours.

Here is a short video taken by his friend Lalzirtira who travelled from Luangmual to Dinthar locality during lockdown. Check out the empty roads.

Lalzirtira is a part of the Health Care department and is one of the few people who must mandatorily report to work every day, as he works in the “State Contact Tracing Management Unit”, a very crucial and important branch of the Aizawl District CoVid-19 Task Force that is responsible for tracing everybody that a CoVid-19 positive patient came in contact with.

So what makes Mizoram different from other states?

Reason #1. Discipline.
Long before CoVid-19, Mizos have always made headlines in the country when it comes to discipline and politeness. Like those viral images you must have seen of vehicles maintaining strict lane rules even when there are no vehicles coming from the opposite direction, or the fact that nobody honks (unnecessarily) in Mizoram.

Even at Lengpui airport, nobody rushes to get out of the plane once it lands, and at other airports, the last people to get up from their seats will always be Mizo travelers once we give way to the crowd jostling to get out.

Reason #2. They learn fast.
Mizos are not perfect, but they keep learning from their mistakes. Like for example, when news of people in India being infected with CoVid-19 and the likelihood of a curfew being announced started spreading on WhatsApp groups, there was immediate panic buying.

He lives right opposite Nu Muani’s store, which is a wholesale store in his locality Chaltlang. On the day of the panic-buying, people flocked to her store immediately.

People still maintained decorum and formed a line politely. There was no pushing or fighting. However, there was also no sense of social distancing! The people just didn’t know about it. And so on that very day, there were awareness programs held on local TV channels, WhatsApp forwards, etc., speaking about the importance of maintaining social distance, and the very next day the line did get way longer, but it was also much safer too.

Reason #3. Well preparedness.
A State Level Task Force was already set up in February to oversee the entire operation in case the CoVid-19 pandemic reaches India. The State Level Task Force was then broken up into District Level, Block Level and finally Local Level Task Force.

There were official awareness bulletins issued by every Government bodies and departments. Even long before the National Lockdown was ordered by PM Narendra Modi, people entering any government offices in Mizoram had to wear a mask and wash their hands before entering the office building, while some offices also had hand sanitizers.

His sister and him visited the Revenue office in the first week of March, and he didn’t have a mask on so he wasn’t allowed entry! He had to purchase a mask from a medical unit located outside and then only was he allowed to enter.

Reason #4. Hand sanitizers, and trust issues!
“This point may seem trivial” he says. But HE really want to include it because he has been hearing from his friends from outside the state talk about how people are actually stealing hand sanitizers from public places or refilling their bottles with the ones kept in offices and shopping malls!

That has never happened in Mizoram so far (at least to his knowledge), and there are hand sanitizers kept everywhere (this was before the lockdown). All ATMs too have hand sanitizers.

He took this photo below just before the lockdown. The ATM was out of money, but the hand sanitizer wasn’t. He says “I guess it is better to run out of money than to run out of lives :)”

Reason #5. Well practiced social distancing.
They learnt very quickly about social distancing, and soon everybody practiced it. It feels so heartening to walk around and see people stand in a queue so far apart from each other.

There are so many wonderful pictures sent on WhatsApp groups of people standing in a line while maintaining a distance from each other, that it was really difficult to select which ones to keep on his blog. So he just randomly selected a few pictures.

Reason #6. Planning and Supplies.
The State Level Task Force right down to the Local Level Task Force had planned everything really well, and because of them, things are running very smoothly in Mizoram. In his locality Chaltlang, every shop that sells essential goods like vegetables and other groceries are shut down, and only ONE store is allowed to operate.

And luckily for him, that happened to be the shop right opposite to his house, Nu Muani’s store.

Every morning he would see people unloading all types of vegetables and other essentials. Only the workers and Local Level Task Force members are allowed on the scene.

And then at a particular time that had been allotted, an announcement is made over the locality loudspeakers that only shopkeepers can now come to Nu Muani’s store to purchase what they need. Again, the required distance is maintained as the shopkeepers stand in line. Common people like me are not yet allowed to come out of the house, and you can’t “cheat” because we are a small community at local level, so all the Local Level Task Force members know who is a shopkeeper and who is not.

Once all the shop keepers have bulk-purchased what they need and gone home, Nu Muani’s store is also ordered to close down and we’re back to complete lockdown and deserted streets. And then at 5 in the evening, an announcement is made over the locality loudspeakers again that all the shopkeepers selling essential goods can now open and only ONE member from each household can come out to buy from the nearest opened shop.

We still have to maintain distance while standing in line, and only 2-4 people are allowed inside the shop at the same time, depending on the size of the shop. And none of the shop-keepers are allowed to sell anything at a price higher than usual, and this is strictly scrutinized by the Local Level Task Force.

And so, that is how things are running so far, and I really appreciate the Local Level Task Force members for their good work.

Reason #7. Local Level Task Force.
“Ah the main heroes of this post.” he says. He don’t mean to demean the doctors and nurses by saying that, they are the real heroes in this battle against CoVid-19, but when it comes to maintaining peace, calm and order at a local level, the Local Level Task Force is doing a fantastic job.

The Local Level Task Force, or LLTF as they are called, consists of authoritative and prominent people within each locality. They are a part of the YMA (Young Mizo Association), preferably office bearers of YMA and Local Council, along with at least one office bearer from different denominations and groups like MUP, MHIP, etc.

It is on a voluntary basis if someone is appointed, people take up their work very seriously once they are appointed. Only those people who have extreme reasons like a sickness or death in a family or duties involved with the state government are excused and a replacement is appointed in their place.

The LLTF is the reason why police officers are not seen in localities. Compare this to pictures and videos from other states where police and para-military forces are patrolling the streets and hitting those who are breaking curfew etc!

People just obey the LLTF. And yes, there will always be one or two stray idiots who just cannot remain at home. If the LLTF catches such people, they are punished, but not by violent means. Here is a picture from Zemabawk locality where the LLTF caught a guy breaking curfew, and they punished him by making him sweep the entire street!

Reason #8. Distribution of food.
Does a lockdown only benefit the privileged? This was one of the arguments some of his friends made. “Keeping everybody in a lockdown is an anti-poor drive because it discriminates those who cannot afford to stock up on food and other essentials”.

There are numerous labourers and daily wagers whose life has been destroyed by this lockdown. That is a really sad reality, and we need to take more effort to cater to those who are in need.

In Aizawl and other district capitals of Mizoram, we are fortunate enough not to have slum areas, like the ones you find in Mumbai, Kolkata etc. And in the villages, many people have their own vegetable gardens and livestock, making them self-sustainable for a short duration. But yes, there are people from lower income families who are affected by the lockdown, and the LLTF has stepped in to guarantee that they are never hungry.

In his locality Chaltlang, the LLTF goes around the entire locality in a pick-up truck, distributing free vegetables to those who are in need. These vegetables are bought with the money donated by people of the same locality.

He gets a little bit sentimental when he mentions about the food distribution part. He says “I guess it is in our Mizo blood to make sure nobody goes to bed hungry.”

He goes on “It was the great famine of 1958 and neglect from Indian Government that gave rise to the formation of the MNFF (Mizo National Famine Front) which made sure that every Mizo had something to eat, no matter how scarce, and from there it turned into a separatist movement. Even though those days are long gone now, as I look around it is clear that we still have that blood running through our veins, the blood of altruism and tlawmngaihna, our selfless sacrifice for our community. And that makes me so proud today.”

Reference: Nagas Connect.

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