Apr 30, 2020

Coronavirus: CTA Calls for 80 Days Lockdown for Tibetan Communities

Addressing a press briefing on 31 April 2020, the Sikyong (President of the Tibetan-government-in-exile) has called for Tibetans in India to continue to observe lockdown in schools, monasteries, old age homes and settlements across India as the official lockdown is set to be lifted on May 3. He reinforced that the risk of transmission will be greater than ever, given India's densely packed population. The Sikyong has also urged those currently outside Dharamshala not to visit the city in the month of May, keeping in view the safety of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.

Below is an article published by the Central Tibetan Administration

As the end of India’s nationwide lockdown is approaching, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay has called for 80 days lockdown for Tibetan communities in India.

Addressing a press briefing today, Sikyong reiterated his call for Tibetans in India to continue to observe lockdown in schools, monasteries, old age homes and settlements across India as official lockdown is set to be lifted on May 3. He said the curve is rising each day, and as India comes out of the lockdown with its densely packed population, the risk of transmission will be greater than ever.

He urged students to stay in school campuses in the month of May rather than travelling through coronavirus hotspots like Delhi and major cities and similarly, advised Tibetans in settlements not to venture out to the cities especially the hotspots.

Most importantly, those currently outside Dharamshala are strictly urged not to visit Dharmshala in the month of May keeping in view the safety of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.

Sikyong condoled the death of a 90-year-old Tibetan based in Vancouver and expressed solidarity with the family of the deceased.

He also gave encouraging updates on the number of Tibetans recovering from the Wuhan originated COVD-19.

Sikyong spoke about the facilities provided by CTA in this crisis, such as helplines for COVID-19 with the directory of contacts of Settlement Officers, Hospital Directors, doctors and nurses published online on CTA news media as well as the mental health helpline services. He also informed that Tibetans in abroad can procure Tibetan herbal medicines for immunity when postal services reopen.

Sikyong lauded the commendable relief initiatives led by various monasteries and organisations towards helping the needy and those affected during this crisis. However, he asked volunteers doing relief work to maintain social distancing during the distribution of ration supplies which could lead to crowds and increase the risk of contracting the disease.

Home Kalon Sonam Topgyal Khorlatsang began by expressing his appreciation to the Indian government in the implementation of the lockdown which effectively curbed the spread of the virus. He also briefed about the initiatives undertaken by CTA and its functionaries.

He stated that the Home Department had created a WhatsApp group with the Settlement Officers of all 43 settlements to get daily updates from them and apprise the Kashag. The task force on coronavirus and the emergency response committee has been working on the same lines. He added quarantine facilities are made available in most settlements, along with ambulance services in many settlements. All Settlement Officers have been directed to inform the public about designated hospitals for COVID-19 care in the region and to arrange transportation services none are available using emergency allowances. He also provided helpline numbers – 104 for contacting DC and helpline 109 for transportation services.

Kalon also issued a clarification in counter to the baseless attempts by certain individuals and media org. at discrediting the CTA during this crisis.

He urged them to show responsibility and not indulge in baseless rumours or concoct fake news to gain traction. As the fourth pillar of democracy, he said it should act accordingly and fulfil its responsibility as the agent of empowerment of society rather than publishing pieces of stories that have no ground or credibility.

He warned that strict legal action will be taken against those circulating fake news in this time of crisis.

Kalon also explained the procedure for granting the destitute category is not done on a whim, but through a due process that starts with the Settlement Officer-led committee for helping the poor which visits villages with the village leader to determine the most financially disadvantaged. After which the data reaches the Home department where it is further vetted based on the fulfilment of certain criteria.

He described the three categories of the financially disadvantaged section:

1) those related to livelihood fall under the purview of the Home Department,

2) those related to education fall under the education department,

3) those with medical conditions and cannot afford their hospital bills fall under the Health Department.

The Home department spends around 970 lakhs rupees annually for 14 old age home with 600 residents, and for elders, we have increased yearly allowances from 400 in 2011 to 7000 currently.

Education department spends 500 lakhs annually on scholarships for 1152 students. The percentage of students pursuing higher education from financially weaker sections are at 85%.

Health department spends around 15 crores annually on the medical bills of those under its category.

The Home Kalon shared that from March to April they have issued 8 notices to all the settlement offices directing them to provide aid for the poor and elderly suffering in this crisis. About 2 lakhs from the previous budget is set aside for emergencies like this and depending on the population of the settlement, they receive funding. The account of expenditures is then sent to the Home department.

A more detailed briefing on the same will be given tomorrow by the Kalons of the concerned departments, Home Kalon said.

Photo: CTA