The Northeast Model For Handling Covid-19

Northeast India

The step by step approach implemented by northeast India, starting from ramping up of testing facilities and number of testing centers to upgrading Covid-19 related health infrastructure, and making available essential supplies to all citizens and most importantly effectively implementing the lockdown, has emerged as a model for managing the pandemic.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

Northeastern states are important not only due to their strategic location that connects the Indian market to Southeast Asian markets and the existence of potent input market catalysts such as labor, minerals, forests reserves, etc. but also because they house almost 5 crore citizens of the country.

Quick Covid Response
Northeast states were the first to start marking the white circles for social distancing, they also installed makeshift umbrellas in the market place to beat the summer heat when following social distancing. Women’s self-help groups started making face masks from the very early days of the pandemic to meet the demand.

In the initial phase, Sikkim and Nagaland did not have any testing facilities while Assam had only two. In the past 6-8 weeks, a number of testing facilities have been built in every northeastern state, pacing up the testing capabilities from 300 a day in April to over 3,800 per day by mid-May.

All the states implemented a strong lockdown by efficiently closing inter-state borders, transport, and securing and closing the 5,000 kilometers long international borders by the armed forces. The pro-active steps taken by all the northeastern states has helped the region in controlling the spread of the virus.

With the central government’s decision to run ‘Shramik Special’ trains from May 1 to allow laborers to reach their home states, some northeastern states have witnessed a spike in Covid-19 cases.  As on May 1, the whole of the north-east combined had only 61 cases but with the increasing movement of people the numbers have sharply risen.

Until May 5, Tripura had only 42 cases. On June 1, it recorded the highest single-day spike of 107, and its tally reached 468 cases as of June 4, 2020. 166 BSF personnel and their family members have been diagnosed in the state. Mizoram which had only 1 case earlier, has reported 12 new cases out of which 10 returned from Delhi and 2 from Kolkata. The first case detected in Nagaland was on May 25 after 3 people returning from Chennai were found to be infected; the state now has 58 active cases.

The surge in positive cases is because of the homecoming of our residents from other states. Nearly 800 of the new cases are of those who returned from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, Health Minister Assam

Meghalaya had only 13 cases until May 5. A person who returned from Chennai tested positive and now the state’s tally stands at 33 cases as of June 4. Manipur did not have any active case until May 5 but now the tally has gone up to 118 cases. Even Arunachal Pradesh which was free from the virus after the recovery of its only patient in April has now reported a total of 38 cases.

Sikkim – The Covid-free State
Despite its close proximity to West Bengal and Assam, Sikkim has handled the pandemic exceptionally well and has reported only 1 positive case until now. Much before the national lockdown, Sikkim banned the entry of international tourists from 5 March and domestic tourists from 17 March and the state government closed its borders for all tourists as a precautionary measure against Covid-19.

The extreme discipline shown by the Sikkimese people in obeying the lockdown has aided the administration to tackle the crisis, and efficiency of the local pharmaceutical firms have helped meet the medical requirements in the state.

Prem Singh Tamang, Chief Minister Of Sikkim

Sikkim canceled this years’ Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and the border trade between India and China through the Nathu La Pass which has led to revenue losses amounting to more than ₹10 crore. It also effectively sealed all its borders early with all its neighboring countries of Nepal, China, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

Despite the severe economic challenges, the proactive steps taken by the administration coupled with the discipline showed by the citizens are being appreciated across the nation and thus Sikkim has remained a Covid-free state.

At a time when the world is moving towards a global recession, tackling the coronavirus disaster in the north-east region would have greater economic consequences in Asia, in terms of international connectivity and investments in the future. Due to the coordination between the local administration, citizens, and all the authorities, the northeast has fared better than most other state and it has emerged as the model for Covid-19 management.

  • North East India is one of the largest salients (panhandles) in the world. A salient is an elongated protrusion of a geopolitical entity, such as a subnational entity or a sovereign state. While similar to a peninsula in shape, a salient is not surrounded by water on three sides. Instead, it has a land border on at least two sides and extends out from the larger geographical body of the administrative unit.
  • The sobriquet ‘Land of the Seven Sisters’ was coined to coincide with the inauguration of the new states in January 1972 by Jyoti Prasad Saikia, a journalist in Tripura. He later compiled a book on the interdependence and commonness of the Seven Sister States, and named it the Land of Seven Sisters. It has been primarily because of this publication that the nickname has caught on.
  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution makes separate arrangements for the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. It was passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949. It provides the power of the enactment of autonomous district councils (ADCs) to protect the rights of tribal populations.