Guwahati: As the coronavirus continues its destructive march across the globe, the eyes of underprivileged classes have now fallen squarely upon the Government agencies and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) for "rescue". In Tripura, royal scion Pradyot Manikya has been at the forefront of the fight against the virus and his organization 'The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance' (or TIPRA) has been seen taking part in relief operations for the public, many of whom are suffering amid the outbreak. In a candid conversation, the heir of the erstwhile Manikya dynasty reveals how he is redefining the art of service. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
So, how has been this phase of helping the people in such trying and testing times?
When you want to help people, there are enough ways of helping. However, if you associate every help with a political agenda, you have lost the depth of assisting. I am very thankful for people from across all sections -- whether it was the RSS, whether it was the Church, whether it was the communists, whether it was the Congress party -- everybody has personally intervened and and also helped us where we could not reach out to the people. I have approached everyone and everyone has extended help. This is not the time to indulge in who's better, this is the time to deliver.
What is the atmosphere in the more rural areas of the state?
People are aware. I am sure even the Government is doing its best. The fact is, we are not here to compete, we are here to do the job. Everybody is doing their bit. We are one of the most effective because we have a network of people who work for 365 days a year and not just before the elections.
How many people has your organization helped so far?
I think we have touched close to 9,000 people all over India, but largely in Tripura. That is close to 20,000 people. We have also paid money from our own pockets in a bid to bring back stranded Tripuri citizens.
What is the effect of the Coronavirus on the economy of Tripura? Has it affected the rural people?
The effect is more on the migrants than on the rural class. Tripura has a huge number of migrants who work as labourers, who work as security guards, who work in malls, as saleswomen or work as orderlies. This is because our society is not as evolved as the other communities in the NE and we are economically backward. These people have suffered the most because their earnings have drastically come down. In certain parts of Tripura where connectivity is a problem, there is problem for food, but that has now been rationalized. All have helped. Now, the biggest challenge for us is how to get the stranded people back to Tripura.
There have been reports and rumours of border crossings from Bangladesh amid the outbreak. There are apprehensions. Does this pose any serious challenge to the local populace? What do you think?
When we were at the height of the CAA protest, I told Home Minister Amit Shah that before any CAA can even be implemented in Tripura, no dialogue is possible till the Government seals off the border with Bangladesh. He assured everyone in front of the CM of Tripura that the border would be sealed. In some way, he himself admitted that there was a lot of infiltration taking place, otherwise he would not have assured us that. The Government needs to look at the cross-border infiltration. Not only from a COVID-19 transmission point of view, but also from a security point of view.
Since the lockdown was called, there are reports that the supply chain has been snapped off. Agriculture sector is incurring losses. What is the solution to this issue?
It is affected, but of course I don't blame the Government because nobody saw this coming from miles away. More than three times the grains that are rotting are there in the FCI, in the godowns. All Governments have this policy of storing. I think we should distribute the food after issuing temporary ration cards rather than let it rot in the public godowns.
Amid skyrocketing number of cases in Tripura, what is your message to the common citizen?
My message right now is we should not think of vote politics and we should unite as a state, as a region, as a country and help each other out. I have seen a lot of good people who wish to help. If we win, we all win and if we lose, we all lose. It is not a singular defeat or a singular victory.