One of the hazards of globalisation is, as fast as ideas and capital spread across national boundaries, so too diseases. The world has seen this in the routine outbreaks of a number of killer virus epidemics such as SARS, Bird Flu and AIDS. Now to this list has just been added Ebola. In many ways, it is a demonstration of the ultimate inevitability of the forces of globalisation that even a secluded place like Manipur, tucked away in a corner of India`™s Northeast, have also been part of the global scares caused by these deadly viruses. It may be recalled, in the past, viruses were making their way into the State even while extreme travel restrictions such as by the Protected Area Permit, PAP, was very much in force in the State literally prohibiting the entry of foreigners into the State. The vital alert from these episodes should be the message that globalisation is inevitable, therefore the best remedy is to be prepared for its consequences, and we must add, its benefits as well. We have also seen, in the decades since India opened up its economy and mind to the world, there have been liberal doses of both. Preparedness is all, and let us have no doubt about this that there is no other way. To believe otherwise would be asking to pay the heavy price of voluntarily economic disempowerment.
Preparedness is about regulation too. It is about identifying and separating the beneficial attributes of globalisation from what is detrimental in it. Welcome the benefits but ward off the adverse consequences. The ongoing optimism about lifting Manipur`™s economy through its immense tourism potential on one side, and periodic scares of global epidemics sweeping through the State on the other, provides the contrasting poles of the impact of modernisation in these times of globalisation. In assessing this situation, and the fine balance needed to keep moving forward without falling, it is difficult not to recall the lines from Charles Dickens in writing of his times, the heady era of industrial age in Europe, in A Tale of Two Cities. He so succinctly summarised the mood in the introductory lines of the novel: `It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.` Dickens might as well be saying this of the era of globalisation. To underscore the point, the preparedness we talk of is therefore to be ready to face `the best of times and the worst of times`. Or to put it another way, in fearing the worst, let us also not forsake the best there is on offer.
Most immediately, there has been an Ebola scare. A woman traveller of Japanese nationality, who entered Manipur from Myanmar, after having been to a number of South East Asian countries, fell ill after landing up in Imphal, raising suspicion that she could have contracted the Ebola virus in her travels. As a precautionary measure, she was hospitalised and quarantined at the JN Hospital. Although it is quite possible her illness had nothing to do with the dreaded epidemic, the precautions taken are welcome, and at least until a proof of the contrary becomes available through blood tests, they must continue. The virus has caused havoc in several African countries, and spread to SE Asia, and the fears now affected areas would continue to spread to the entire globe, including the advanced West, if left unchecked. It is a foregone conclusion that in case the disease spreads to the rest of the world, the worst damages would be suffered by the poor countries with substandard health facilities. This is why the authorities in Manipur should be worried of the possible spread of the disease to the State. As suggested by many, screening at the various entry points of the State must begin immediately. This must be especially to detect and ensure travellers from countries where the epidemic has already become a menace, are free of the virus. If the alarm gets worse, may even restrict travellers from these countries until the crisis has been contained.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam