A small, emerald-green strip on the southern coast of India called Kerala, where an ancient spice trade has always connected it with the Middle East. Today, tourists flock to this state for its swaying palm beaches and backwaters steeped in religious and cultural history. Its tourism tagline, God's Own Country, seemed to ring true...until the coronavirus pandemic.
The first COVID-19 cases in India were detected in Kerala when a 48-year-old man tested positive after returning from Dubai. Since then this state, with the highest expatriate population from UAE, and the most number of COVID cases, has been at the forefront of the battle against the virus in India.
A bespectacled lady, swaddled in a saree, Kerala Health and Social Welfare Minister KK Shailaja, a former teacher, leads the way. Her scientific approach is legendary. She tackled the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018, with enough drama to pack into a blockbuster Malayalam film titled Virus!
Shailaja Teacher has been fondly renamed Corona Slayer, for her brand of firm leadership, with a healing touch. Her first concern was the many students from Kerala studying in Wuhan, China. She set up 18 committees. They report to her every day. Her daily press conferences conveyed the severity in a calm manner with a clear message: break the chain. The government of Kerala has tested the highest number of samples for the coronavirus in India, followed by contact tracing and route maps.
But more remarkable, despite the insistence on physical distancing, has been an emphasis on social unity – mid-day meals delivered to students' homes, after schools were closed, so they are not left hungry; prisoners asked to pitch in by stitching medical masks, and sanitiser formulas manufactured in public companies. Kerala has always been a state with very high social indices of education and health compared to the rest of India, but this crisis has also shown us the power of feminine politics.
I live outside my home state Kerala, but even from afar, I can see that it is a beacon of hope and public welfare to the rest of the nation by offering migrants incentives to stay. Contrast this to the mass exodus of migrants walking back to their distant village on foot, and raising the spectre of a humanitarian crisis and the threat of infection.
As we each pray for a miracle in God's own country, it makes me especially proud that a former teacher is delivering the most important lessons in compassionate leadership.
Contributing Author: Miriam Chandy Menacherry
This story first appeared on Our Better World
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