In the view of Coronavirus outbreak, the Central Government has declared lockdown in the country till May 3, 2020. For the safety of the general public, the Government has shut down all the malls, markets, schools, and colleges until further notice. The COVID-19 outbreak has created an unprecedented halt across the globe. The Government has asked to seal all the state and district borders, so that community transmission in India can be prohibited. Moreover, the authorities have also prohibited any travel within the country except for the transportation of essential goods.
Lalit Jain, Director, Department of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Himachal Pradesh, speaking over the issue during a webinar hosted by Dr Ravi Gupta, Founder and CEO, Elets Technomedia, said, “The spread of COVID-19 is under control in Himachal Pradesh. From the very first day, we have sealed our borders as a preventive measure. With the help of the Centre, we have been promoting ArogyaSetu app and it has been very helpful in tracking the COVID-19 cases.”
SHGs working shoulder-to-shoulder with the authorities in times of COVID-19
Acknowledging the efforts put in by the Self Help Groups (SHGs) in fighting the pandemic, Jain said, the State Government has 18,500 SHGs and 1.5 lakh people helping the officials. Ther contribution is worth appreciation. Also, Jain said, “We have empowered SHG to prepare PPEs. The groups not only stitch masks for the people in the state but also are selling the same to the Government of India. We have been also encouraging people to switch to the locally-made masks.”
The SHGs are a parallel army and these can be used for administrative work like conducting surveys or audits, he added. While mentioning about the steps taken to provide food to every person in need, Jain said, the SHGs are running community kitchens and NGOs are also coming up for the cause. People in the State have been supportive of feeding the poor and the needy and are stepping forward to help.
Initiatives by the authorities and the way forward
Addressing the initiative taken to in the COVID-19 situation considering food supply and agricultural aspects, Jain said, the officials have urged the people to grow vegetables, fruits and whatever feasible depending on the land they have or in their kitchen gardens. The produce can then be bartered with their neighbours or others nearby depending on the needs. This model helps people to become self-reliant and self-sustainable to an extent.
Furthermore, on the initiatives, Jain told the webinar attendees that the Government has started the production hydroxychloroquine in the state, which is seen as an option for the growing pandemic across the globe.
Jain also confirmed that the State has directed the workers under MGNREGA to start work of cleaning stormwater drains and other civil works necessary so that the daily waged workers will not suffer in the lockdown.
Moreover, when questioned about the operational changes that can be implemented in the government offices in this time of crisis, Jain said, “In various departments, many operations can be done by work from home, especially clerical jobs. Also, people can be informed beforehand if they have to attend the office or not depending on work so that social distancing can be in practice and work will also be continued.” Adopting technology is very important today, especially at this hour of crisis, and it should be a mandatory course of study for all, he added.
Speaking about the strategies and the way forward, Jain said that the State Government is focusing on inculcating new and creative skillset for people. Moreover, he emphasized that every strategy has to start from villages as most of the people reside in rural areas. Bottom to top approach mus be adopted for effective execution of plans. He rested his words by saying, lockdown can be partially removed, the areas which are hotspots must be sealed and those which are free from the cases can be reopened so that functions can be brought back to normal.