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By Marbamonlang Rani
After several months of being confined to the four walls of our homes due to the coronavirus outbreak, residents of Meghalaya have been gradually trying to adjust with what is universally termed as 'the new normal'.
Besides the changes in our environment, a human being's every aspect has also been modified. Although the majority of the citizens are asymptomatic or unaffected by the illness, other things have had a vicious effect on the people. Some of those effects, as per the people's opinions, are the result of an 'indifferent' government.
Has the government not done enough? Has it overlooked the interests of the people? Or, have the people so far, overlooked the government's efforts and achievements?
People's trust in the government has quaked because of the belief that their requirements haven't been fairly noticed.
Analysing Meghalaya currently, one could say that different existing issues aren't only neglected but also unfairly treated.
One major unrest prevailing in the city is the demand for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and repeal of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act by different NGOs of the state.
The Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisation (CoMSO) has threatened that if the government does not respond to their demand, they will intensify their agitation in the upcoming months.
The organisation has appealed to all 60 Meghalaya MLAs and three MPs (two Lok Sabha MPs and one Rajya Sabha MP) of the state to hold sit-in demonstrations in Delhi to ensure that Inner Liner Permit is soon enforced.
In the recent agitational programmes held in the capital city as well as in all district headquarters of the state, we saw banners and flags being hoisted that read, "Conrad Sangma prove yourself that you can lead Meghalaya to ILP regime... if not, you can step down." "Yes ILP, no CAA" and many others.
Employment is another crucial issue faced by people. Hawkers, workers under the tourism sector, drivers, and daily labourers have experienced a sharp cut in their wages. Poverty has stricken the poorest at their worst due to the lack of labour. On the other hand, inflation adds to their financial woes.
Drivers, most prominently, are the victims of excessive loss because of the social distancing rule laid by the government, since the number of passengers has been decreased to almost 50 per cent.
The transportation fare from Shillong to Khliehriat (East Jaiñtia Hills) rocketed from Rs 170 instantly to Rs 400 for each passenger after the lockdown. Normally the vehicles would accommodate ten passengers, which would enable them to earn for petrol as well as for their wages. Most of the passengers have restrained from travelling because of the expensive fare. Hence, public vehicles are almost empty. Most of the drivers can hardly earn while some have even quit driving. Nevertheless, everyone must indeed follow the protocols set by the government.
But, there appears to be an imbalance or perhaps, partiality when we speak about those subjected to practise social distancing and, those who are exempted from doing so.
The social distancing norm that is so strongly imposed upon these drivers does not seem to imply in places like Ïewduh aka Motphran (market). The well-known market is brimmed with customers these days that one could hardly believe social distancing is a rule enforced by the government. The sight of the Ïew die lang (market) is probably the most fascinating one, seeing how congested it is. If shopkeepers and sellers can freely and fully earn, then drivers too, have the right to feed their struggling families without having to quit what they have been doing for decades. And If social distancing must not be violated then, it must be imposed on every individual.
Another major drawback that parents and students face is online learning that has been effective since the lockdown. Illiterate and poor parents have had to buy smartphones worth 6000-7000 rupees for their children's online classes, although their income, at the time, was not even close to decent.
Students living in rural areas, however, had to struggle with poor connectivity by walking to higher, more mounting surfaces. Some primary classes were hardly given explanations or demonstrations besides homework and exercises. Illiterate parents of such pupils had to send them for private tuitions, thereby having to pay for school fees, internet data, private lessons, and smartphones.
Even when exams/tests are often held online, they are not as genuine because of the flexibility online learning offers. Parents, therefore, question, if all of the expenditures are worth equipping their children with a year of education, or if pausing one academic year would have been more beneficial.
Most of the schools have been reopened for classes 9-12, and this is yet another challenge for the teachers who have to teach in both online and offline mode.
The causes expressed above and many more, are glaring and it is for the government to open its eyes and do something about it.
Do people's opinions and sentiments matter or whether it would take for them, the next two years to realise people's value?
All these issues that are persistent in present Meghalaya collectively fluctuate the people's trust in the system, which is the major hurdle for the government to restore.
People's trust is something to be earned and not to be bought or bargained with.
(The writer is a first Semester student of St. Anthony's College, Shillong.)