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Nagaland: Rising coronavirus cases bring back old faultlines in state

Nagaland has seen increasing numbers of cases in recent days. The state has reported 7 new COVID-19 cases taking the total to 25 active cases on May 29, 2020 morning. All 7 cases were detected in a close interval of time. Out of the 7 patients, 2 are Dimapur, 4 Kohima, and 1 Tuensang.

One of the primary causes is the return of stranded workers and students in different parts of the country. A host of Nagaland people work outside, especially in the southern states which are badly affected by the corona pandemic. Among them, a sizeable number of them are from Chennai. Tamil Nadu has registered 19,372 cases with 10,548 cured and 145 deaths. There is an added risk in Nagaland since the migrants mostly come from these places.

This comes at a time when the Nagaland govt decided to send back returnees to their respective district facilities. It informed that positive cases to be transported to respective districts following all safety procedures and norms as informed by Neiba Kronu, Minister, Planning and Coordination, Land Revenue, and Parliamentary Affairs during the briefing of Covid19. This has been a cause of worry for different stakeholders of the state who fear this move might backfire.

As per reports, the people who have been sent back were not properly tested or screens. Taking stock of the situation, apex tribal organisation Ao Senden has submitted a memorandum to Nagaland Chief Minister demanding action against those responsible for sending returnees from Chennai to their respective districts without completion of testing procedures. The opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) has questioned the motive of the PDA Government in sending returnees from other states/cities to Tuensang when the Government was fully aware that the test results are still awaited.

Another issue is the lack of facilities in the individual districts to cater to all those returnees especially in the eastern parts, which erupted when a returnee from Tuensang district was found positive. Tuensang is one of the 4 eastern districts in the state. The town was founded in 1947 for the purpose of administrating the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency(NEFA) that comprised the present day Tuensang, Mon, Longleng, Kiphire districts. Today, these four districts combined together are also known as ‘Eastern Nagaland’.

Historically these areas have been underdeveloped as cited by their representative bodies. Owing to that they have fewer medical facilities as compared to the prosperous districts of the state such as Kohima, Dimapur, and Mokuchung.

DistrictsBeds Covid19 hospitalBeds IsolationTotal ICUVentilation
Dimapur76862213
Kohima90412310
Mokokchung847554
Mon18621
Longleng15501
Tuensang543341
Kiphire102221
data complied from covid19.nagaland.gov.in

The data reveals that as compared to the Kohima, Mokokchung, and Dimapur, the eastern districts lack basic infrastructure as opposed to them.

In such a situation, things might escalate if not given adequate provisions. As such, MLA Muthingnyuba Sangtam has slammed the Nagaland government for negligence, and said, “efforts made by Eastern Nagaland Legislators to stop returnees from going to their respective districts went unheeded by Nagaland Government”.

Also read: Assam: 33 escape quarantine centre reveal insufficient food, inadequate facilities

The Eastern Naga Students Federation (ENSF) has expressed strong resentment to the state Government and has cited the step as “inhumanly discriminating” against the returnees of Eastern Nagaland and forcefully dispatching them to Tuensang. “This has created fear and panic in the minds of the co-passengers including the general public. This is utter negligence on the part of the present PDA Government and they must take full responsibility instead of justifying it as communication gap”. The govt had earlier stated that there was a “communication gap” regarding the issue.

A protesters against the recent move by govt

The macro issue: Nagaland


At the time, when the world is facing this unprecedented crisis, the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of the existing problems. The backwardness of eastern Nagaland has been raised in the media previously as well. Years ago, The Eastern Nagaland Public Organisation (ENPO) had demanded the formation of a separate state, Frontier Nagaland in these liens along with other issues.

Politics aside, this resentment has now taken a new turn. Speaking to Inside Northeast, “there should be a distribution of monetary and relief materials in a proper and deserving way”, said Dr. Lima Jamir from the Northeast Indigenous Forum. He reveals that there has been historical neglect regarding these areas but now the bigger problem is of corruption. “The representatives are making easy money and the people are neglected and not made aware. As per reports, many migrants working outside Nagaland are from these parts and there is a lack of clarity whether they have been properly tested and sent back home.”This is an added threat and has agitated people who are protesting against the measures adopted by the govt.

It is not clear as to who is at fault but what has been evident is that the pandemic has reopened old indignation and only time can tell what that leads to?

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