Corona Catastrophe: WE- Leadership to protect ourselves from future crisis

Humans, now cling on to the helm of a sinking boat. Science is not yet able to arrest the faster pace of the COVID waves.

ByKeisham Kishan

Updated 11 Aug 2020, 6:12 pm

Representational image (PHOTO: Pexels)
Representational image (PHOTO: Pexels)


The world is deserted and devoid of human noise. The invincible humans no longer conquer and sail the World. Nature is one who always sets the balance. Humans, now cling on to the helm of a sinking boat. Science is not yet able to arrest the faster pace of the COVID waves. In a very short period of time, the WHO had to declare ‘A Global Pandemic’. Many countries had even lamented the delay in the announcement and ineffective control measures of the disease.

The world has been on lockdown for the past many months; masks are necessary lifestyle accessories; mental issues turn up; all a cumulative pressure on one’s life.
Big business went bankrupt. The financial crisis is almost imminent. The World is almost tormented. There is no good news for Mankind at the moment. What remains good is the fact that we are able to inhale clean air; rivers are regenerating; animals have gotten their freedom. The environment has had a few moments to relax.

COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and soon after, the World Health organization declared the case of COVID-19 “A Global pandemic”. They were unaware of its virulence and still there is a debate over WHO conducts.

It was in the month of March 2020; I was returning home to Imphal from Bangalore when COVID-19 was spreading rapidly across India. I was so worried about the situation of getting an infection. At the airport, people stood far away from me and others belonging to the Northeastern community. Because of our Mongoloid features, they might have thought that we scourge the land with the “Chinese Virus” in our pockets. It’s okay – I don’t mind, everyone panicked. I too did.

Then, the COVID-19 log phase began after the Tabliq-e-jamad, Nizamuddin incident. With that community transmission was evident. It was the incident of a large-scale exodus nationwide from metropolitan cities to their respective states, since the last Northeastern exodus of 2012. Fortunately, in Manipur, returnees had no infection till that time, except for a Meitei girl and a Muslim Man. There were a hue and cry amongst masses, even went to the extent of closing local roads with bamboos. This was a fear psychosis as usual, deep-rooted in blood, in fear of the disease. All hell broke loose among whole masses.

Finally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced a Nationwide lockdown on March 21, 2020. Yet, a huge number of people were trapped in their hostels, rented house, and other places. They couldn’t go back to their native place at the suddenness of the situation. After a few months had passed since lockdown began, there was no hope of controlling the disease or the invention of a vaccine. It was quite evident that it would remain within our ecosystem for a certain period of time.

Then, there was a trend that rose on social media in our state. People, especially students residing outside the state, sought help for them to be brought back to the State, mentioning the Chief Minister of Manipur, addressing him as “Pabung Biren”. The Honourable CM is very much active on social media. He even started Tengbang.in to help the stranded people, providing financial assistance; setting up a rapid response team to assist masses; updated daily activities, and movement on COVID-19 issues. He single-handedly managed all COVID-19 related issues, even personally visiting various quarantine centers. He raised COVID care fund from the public for COVID-19 management expenditure of the state. In fact, he projected himself as a ‘Hero’ of the hour, giving ‘speeches’ frequently on social media, addressing the Public – “not to panic”. It was, indeed, commendable. 


Some had expressed their grievances on the remuneration providing mechanism. On the other hand, people lamented the government for improper management of crowd and the returnees amidst the brief opening stint of lockdown. Departments were issuing multiple independent notices at the same time, confusing masses for which to follow.

Chief Secretary Suresh Babu, the home department issued notice; DCs also issued notice; two other departments issued their own independent notices too. But there was too much variation in their respective orders within - Do’s and Don’t! Bureaucrats were given enormous power in handling the situation as always.  From Indian history, we knew that since the inception of East India Company, “Indian civil servant is to serve company, not the people”. They were “to command masses”, not to serve them. Such nature and viewpoints are still prevalent in modern 21st-century administration by the bureaucrats, which may have enthused during their officer’s training period. We also cannot hold liability and accountability for such conducts on each individual . Infact, they have been directed to perform such duties in align with elected representative’s gratification. It is a colonial legacy that cannot be rid away with easily. It can also be the fault of each individual, our society, fault of our system, etc. and of course, our traditional socio-cultural norms.

Also, the recruitment process and training, pose a severe impact on their ethos and conduct towards the public. Moreover, the effectiveness of highly coveted and romanticized Civil servants is vacillating and uncertain. It is evident that lockdown management is a misfortune and a distressful episode.

The ‘Steel-frame’ of India is far off from a position where they are able to manage the crisis in an inefficacious and adroit manner. Despite that, Manipur was declared a Green zone for a brief span. We were safe for some time! General masses were happy with the situation as a normal life could begin, at least within our limited boundaries. Unfortunately, without pondering on our weakness; without looking at our man-power and resources; without considering the pros and cons; The government took a decision in an expeditious manner to bring back stranded Manipuris from outside the state. The decision was very much welcomed. They are our brothers and sisters. We also pray for their well-being. But, were we prepared enough to bring them all, without having proper protective guidance and mechanism? Do we have to build up enough carrying capacity? Do we have enough masks, ventilators, PPE, testing kits, etc.? Do we have properly trained doctors and volunteers for a short but taxing period of time? Did we ever decide on properly isolated location sites to quarantine people? It was likely that the Political maneuver guided towards an unsound decision. But,it put the whole state and innocent masses into jeopardy. In case of any unforeseen situation, they will seek support from the masses. And at the same time, they will also put accountability on the entire masses for their conduct. Such Political morality can have a drastic impact on the mindset of the Public and the state, as a whole.

Thousands of people arrived in the state on a daily basis. Some Politicians, Social Workers, etc. seemed content with the arrivals that masked the incoming hardships faced by masses as the election was knocking at the door. And, it is the rarest of rare opportunity to grab public sympathy. Then, it begins, the COVID -19 festival, with the opening of quarantine centers in each and every locality, without the much-required knowledge of the virus. Rain Disco, whiskey party, fight scene etc.at QC soon followed which turned into entertaining evening viral videos in social media. People were highly irresponsible too.

COVID-19 social workers, aspiring election candidates, occupied news channels with their food distribution agendas.  It reminded me of Amitabh Bachan’s movies ‘Inquilab’—where his party members burnt down houses of poor people and on the next day, he helped them by distributing food grain, clothes, etc. This outdated 70’s political vote bank practices are still relevant in our state. Now, nobody talks of controlling the virus anymore and turned into a Mega-festival of 2020.

The Red-Cross Society and some devoted health professionals along with other NGOs, local volunteers, etc. were doing some commendable groundwork. No words can describe their commitment and dedication during the troublesome situations.
The situation is now out of our hands and is rising rapidly at an exponential rate. Everybody may have to decide on their own fate. General Public are  reckless, careless, and lacks responsibility. Most of them didn’t comply with the Government and Health department guidelines. Unfortunately, the state has a huge number of illiterate elders’ populations; literate but uneducated masses too; they aren’t aware of the effect of the virulence of this deadly virus. Such people can easily be controlled and managed with strict provisions and rigorous mechanisms.
But Powerful Figures including Ministers, Bureaucrats, influential ones, etc. made frequent travel to Outside the State. Have we heard or seen news of them being quarantined institutionally or by themselves? Public are doubtful whether they ever quarantine or isolate themselves.

Nobody is immune to COVID-19. They even travel with common masses on a
flight together! It is needed to clarify who holds responsibility and accountability of them?  It is who wilfully not obeying the Preventive measures Guidelines? Is it legitimate to put onus on VIP or Public or both for those conducts ? Or Shall we blame China and the Chinese for the disease?

Feudal practices are deeply ingrained in our social ecosystem.It is not proper to censure on any individual for such practices. But ,deeply in our conscience, we are aware of the significance to set aside certain primitive practices, which is ill-suited and is unbecoming with current social development . Even, our Stalwart Figures must be having consciousness of what is rightful or wrongful acts. They are much knowledgeable on what are good or bad conducts . It is the power that sways away from their mind and lost the capacity to listen to his/her conscience. They seems to loose compos-mentis and thus impede them in taking reasonable decision.


In Spider man comic , it popularised Peter principle-“With Great power become great responsibility”, which is the concept dating from French Revolution, 1793.

Many leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Abrahim Lincoln etc. listen to their heart, mind, spirit and cautiously exercise their power. Unfortunately, Almost all the dominant Figure, in our land, tend to disregard their words, promises, and their roles in the necessary development. They ,on the other hand, seems to devote their valuable time and effort upon self-growth at the expense of the state.

It is quite unfortunate for us that Britishers left Manipur too soon. We haven't had many opportunities to learn from them their educational and researches practices, strict discipline with rules and regulation, the role of the active citizen, rights of individuals, etc. It would be an exaggeration to put a guilty on British for taking the opportunity in conquering our state, on our kingship’s failure. Their short stay, in Imphal, has put us into such an advantageous position, as we are able to compete and expose ourselves to the global arena. But, Still, we are shackled in our feudal belief system - our habit of revering our King as a God. Our mindset, our ideologies, our socio-cultural practices are the same still, with that of our 17th-century age-old practices.

It seems we haven’t created a room for evolution and development in our Meetei culture, in cognizance with the fast-changing modern lifestyle. On the contrary, we could see transformational changes in cultural practices among hilly people as Christianity swept away age-old traditions, and even for some Meitei too. They seems to ahead far away from Meetei people in term of unity, co-operation and self-protection. Further, Most of the communities in the state have a tendency of pleasing ourselves with few benefits that are endowed upon us and reaping the benefits alone. We can’t think of a larger cause. And, it would be wise to question ourselves why do we have such unduly individualistic self-growing tendencies. It is vitally important to realise ourselves whether it is our social factors that cause to pollute our minds, behaviours and characters. Or, It is the education that entailed us to be self-centred and egocentric manner.

And, why do every parent fancy his sons and daughters to become Doctors, IAS, Professors, Engineers etc. aren’t a puzzling fact? And also, every individual wishes to be in a highly regarded, white collared professions. It is who to decide the stature regarding such professions? It can be arguable that one decides to enter into such profession - “Not by own Choice rather Society demands”. It is a common belief among mass that once one gets into such profession, one will be well-revered and regarded by everyone in the society; one will get a wife or groom of his/her choice and; would be able to run away on weekend holiday trips with a glass of wine in hand, in luxurious hotels with a beach for a backdrop. He/she would travel on foreign trips with frequent updates on social media with inspirational quotes,
with a few luxury assets here and there and; sometimes, a Chief guest giving speeches, mentioning past achievements and records at every function to motivate others, presenting himself/herself as a role model. As a result, every parent wishes his son or daughter to aspire for that position. Not a single parent will advise their children to become reputed farmers or any as such. And, It is not rightful act for a Parent to say so! It won’t be wrong to say that it is the Policymakers who might have far-off from their worthiness of conducts ? It is evident that there is the existence of prejudices among diverse professions . But, in a crisis, we all need food.  That we must remember!!

Moreover, our education doesn’t provide an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of
cooperation and collaboration, but competition.We are so competitive that we have to race for anything, even among siblings. We tend to ignore and envy upon someone’s personal achievement, instead of showing appreciation. And so, it is quite visible that there exists a deeply rooted narcissistic and chauvinistic tradition of - “I know everything; only I can do it” and “I can alone save my people”. It is highly likely that ‘Persons with such attitude’ are quite apprehensive about the development of others. They wish everything to be on their card and remain immortal. Such behaviour brings ‘Trust Deficit’ with the style of leadership among his/her community.  The nature of “I” – leadership tends to bring damage; is damaging and will damage the faith in the Public Figure. As they usually take unilateral decisions leaving aside the interest of General Public. It is such a leadership approach that we are almost doomed in handling the Corona crisis.

Our state has been shrinking almost in every aspect. It is high time that the Youth must involve more in our decision-making process. It is also necessitated to inculcate ourselves a selfless viewpoints , keeping aside personal agendas. Further, It is youth’s rightful duty to focus on working together-helping together and learn the art of cooperation and collaboration among ourselves. Last but not the least, it is desirable that we may need to build and groom –

“Leaders who can lead on our interest, who knows Youth’s inspiration, who deeply
connects with our resources and knows how to materialize it”. The old-fashion Self-
appraisal Heroism -- “I- centric” Leadership culture has severely done the damage. And so, “We leadership” is the need of the hour to protect and preserve ourselves from the unforeseen storm that is looming upon us. Otherwise, our future will be swept away and our essence will be lost forever. Day by day we are unconsciously losing our land, our resources, even our moral principles, values, cultures, spirit, etc. Global capitalists are to dawning upon us. At this crucial juncture, we compel to argue among ourselves and are not in a position to mend ourselves. It is high time that we communicate and work on each other interests and sort out our differences to create an unbreakable bond. We might have already reached a state, which would be difficult to save ourselves from, in case, we do not wake up
now! We may perish in our dreams! But it is as saying goes— “It is not possible to wake up a person who isn’t sleeping”. Well, in that case, the only thing left is for us to pray! Let us wait for God’s response!


First published:



Keisham Kishan

Keisham Kishan

Educationist, works at ASER, research unit of Pratham Education Foundation


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