The day started at home with a smell. At first we thought it might be the dogs had killed a tang. But the smell was not on the dogs. Or maybe a rat had died somewhere near the back verandah. Using our noses as the tracking devices they are, we found the smell was coming from inside our old cooking stove, which we had not given away as planned because it has an electric plate that could, who knows, be important later - what with so many in the greedy classes stocking up on gas and causing “shortages”. Anyway, it was indeed a dead rat in the bottom compartment of the oven. So we cleaned up, and buried it and put a rock on top because our dogs are champion diggers. And talking of dogs, we got some very witty feedback about the previous post about mother-and-son street dogs that, grown accustomed to the rural silence of the lockdown, do not tolerate anyone breaking the curfew. The two dogs are not just lisyin guvernman, previously during colonial times known as lisyin larenn, (Mauritian humour for policemen when they serve not the people but the state) but are lisyin lepep as well. So, in times of crises, the two natures of officers of the state become clear: do they serve the people, or those in power?
And talking about Mauritian humour, it is so subtle. Like the people who peddle their wares on foot are called “marsan legim”, “marsan dile”, “marsan mersri”, “marsan guyav desinn”, the malaria contact-tracers, so vital today to quell the spread of the Coronavirus, and who go door to door are also then called “marsan lafyev”. And another essential sector today are the “marsan salte”.
But let us talk seriously as well.
The Real Demands
It is important that the State knows what the real demands are, demands in the interests of the people.
In this context, some of the media outlets have lost their serenity. For example, one that does not publish LALIT’s reasonable demands re-iterates, without comment, a call to open the Port Louis bazaar, and another to close down the civil service ministry and collapse it into the already over-loaded Prime Minister’s Office. Neither of these demands is presented as responding to the two pressing needs of the moment:
* stopping the spread of the Coronavirus epidemic.
* getting everyone continually stocked up on food and other basics, in a calm and assured way.
These must be our main concern. The Press needs to keep in mind the central issues, and not get distracted by red herrings. The unions need to look out for the entire working class, including its unemployed and retired, and not just one sector’s, or even many sectors’, interests. What is good for the whole of the working class is good for everyone.
In LALIT, we see that, in order for the spread of the virus to be quelled until such time as vaccines come out next year, the state needs to:
a) assure food for all, and
b) continue its excellent “trace-and-test” strategy
c) support all health care workers,
d) offer a new social contract to the working class, going forward, so as to include all the discipline needed in order to keep up the “stay home” policy as long as necessary and, at the same time, assure food supplies for all, as well as essential services for all.
This means, the State must:
1. Guarantee to each family in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Agalega an immediate revenue, or an immediate food supply to each family, as suggested by Sanjay Jagatsingh . Half of people, remember, work for SMEs or are self-employed – so have neither pay nor pension.
2. Announce an immediate moratorium for x months on all loans, rent payments, and utility bills.
3. Price controls, and where necessary, rationing of food, cleaning materials, cooking materials, medicines.
4. Essential service workers (whether in refuse collection or food distribution or whatever) must be immediately included in a future social contract, as government employees, with proper conditions.
5. That the government assures people that, as we come out of the crisis:
a) All IRS-type villa schemes be frozen.
b) One third of all sugar estate land (either plenn-ter or antreliyn) be used for food crops, while each estate or ex-estate immediately sets up a food preservation factory to preserve and transform the first crops. This is essential work. If the sugar estates do not obey Government, their land must be requisitioned and nationalized to this end.
c) As land is freed up, every one in Mauritius living in crowded housing or bad housing will be housed.
6. Now that we see the importance of a universal, public health system, that the Government announce it withdraws the private insurance and private health schemes it has been trying to impose on civil servants, as this will weaken instead of strengthen our health system.
LALIT is calling on unions to endorse this program, or the parts they agree with.
Just to mention that on 8 March a group of as many as 300 Chinese intensive-care doctors began arriving in Italy. This is the kind of approach – where resources are moved to the place with the need – that is called for. Instead of just sealing off an area, organize to go help it.
As in Mauritius, postal delivery workers are turning out to be critical workers elsewhere. For example in Ireland, where they are also tasked with checking on the welfare of the elderly.
A friend who is an academic specializing in human mobility, has sent a link to a site run by a colleague Biao Xiang “Mobility and the Virus” https://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/project/the-coronavirus-and-mobility-forum/ The focus of their interest and study (in normal times, too) is how people move around, and what the consequences of this are.
A LALIT member sent me this link about how the Coronavirus family of viruses may be changing out of their original species because their habitat is under too much pressure, while humans by the billion need food: Here are two links: