Dr Asangba Tzudir
Amid the growing number of COVID-19 positive cases in Nagaland especially in the state Capital, and the Commercial district, a circular was issued by the Tourism department requesting allied departments to initiate preparation for the Hornbill Festival. While the denizens thought the almost certainty of leaving out Hornbill Festival from this year’s calendar event, the circular to go ahead with the festival not only came as a surprise but shocking considering the better judgment of the dangers of having Hornbill amidst the pandemic. Since then, the voice against Hornbill Festival has only grown louder in various social media platforms, and rightly so because currently the rate of transmission in the state seems to be higher than the National transmission rate.
The opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) has also slammed the Nagaland Government’s plan to hold the festival stating that it is a ‘catastrophic move’ considering the nature of the celebration, and “not a time for merry making and momentary pleasure but to ensure the safety of the people.”
While this year’s edition is reportedly planned to be a digital event, people’s participation is still required to reach out to the masses virtually. Besides, the desired objectives of the various segments of the Hornbill Festival will fail in its objectives starting from inflow of international and national tourists to the exhibition stalls.
Though digital is being considered as an alternative, the current circumstances on all fronts calls for a serious rethinking on the plan to go ahead with the festival in whatever format. Why should the Government ‘waste’/spend money on the festival while it is struggling on the COVID-19 front amidst the rising number of cases, and where the rate of recovery is no consolation at all in the larger scheme of Corona spreading and its efforts to contain the spread. Rather, the money to be marked for the hornbill festival should be ‘diverted’ judiciously used in the fight against Coronavirus.
Now, even as the voice against holding Hornbill Festival gets more vocal, and whether it is held or not, the general public seems to have also failed to strictly follow even the basic SOPs. With the opening up of restrictions imposed within the growing number of cases, the only way out is to obey and maintain the SOPs. However, violation abounds with social distancing hardly maintained, and the number of people not wearing face masks seems to be increasing. Most social gatherings continue to violate the SOPs like the recently concluded Durga Puja celebrations.
Even with the objections raised, the Government may simply go ahead with the festival in whatever format they think best. However, even when mega sporting events like Olympics had to be postponed, and considering the situation, the Government needs a rethinking and possibly ‘postpone’ it to next December conditionally. But irrespective of whether Hornbill Festival is held or not, a big responsibility rests on the general public at all times on the maintenance of the basic SOPs which is ignored mostly.
(Dr Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to the Morung Express. Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)