The world is facing one of the worst crises – the COVID-19 pandemic. As countries worldwide are taking stringent measures to fight the viral pandemic, India is no different. As a matter of fact, India’s proactiveness and bold decisions like the imposition of a countrywide lockdown have been much appreciated across the globe. Hence, the country is in a fairly good position considering the condition of many developed countries. These efforts have been successful as the implementation was done at the grassroots level and for this, the coordinated approach of the Centre, states and the local governments has to be accredited.
Considering the above-mentioned fact and to know more about the initiatives taken by the district authorities of Jhansi, Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network interviewed Andra Vamsi, District Magistrate, Jhansi.
What was the roadmap strategy adopted by the Jhansi administration to curb the COVID-19 menace?
The guidelines issued by the Government of India played a major role for us in constituting an effective strategy to fight the viral pandemic. As per the Centre’s guidelines, we strictly enforced the lockdown in the district and one of the major challenges we faced was ensuring the lockdown norms are being adhered to. Further, we are ensuring that the supply of groceries, food grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and other essential commodities is being taken care of. We are ensuring no person starves for food, water or any other essential item in the district. Moreover, the strategy included upgrading our medical facilities and infrastructure and enhancing our preparedness for COVID-19 cases in the district at present and for the future as well. Our mantra has been, “Over preparation and ruthless enforcement”.
How are the district authorities ensuring that the lockdown guidelines are being followed?
With imposing lockdowns, the idea is to stop non – essential movement completely to break the chain of transmission of Coronavirus. However, the guidelines do allow movement of essential goods like medical supplies, grocery items, milk, grains, etc. and people who are involved in containment of COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, the movement of relief material for distribution to those who are in need is also exempted.
To ease the movement during the lockdown, passes are being issued from the ADM office and since April 2, passes are only being issued online through the e-pass system.
In the wake of the lockdown, there are 42 points where barriers have been set up to restrict the inter-city movement. Each of these points is manned round-the-clock by a team consisting of a magistrate, a doctor, police squad of sub-inspectors, and two constables. Any person who needs to enter the district borders is checked by the doctor on duty. All the doctors are private professionals who are providing their services voluntarily. Within the city and towns also, police have been deployed so that no non-essential movement can take place.
How did the district administration address the issue of migrant labourers?
As Jhansi is a major road and railway junction, the arrival of migrant workers in huge numbers was another big challenge for the administration to handle. As many as one lakh people arrived by trains, buses and even on foot. Of the total, around 20 percent of the migrants were from Jhansi rest were from the neighbouring districts.
On arrival, they were first screened at the railway station, bus station and the district borders. Two dedicated teams of doctors and paramedics each were deployed at the railway station, Jhansi bus station, Jhansi- Datia border and Mau Ranipur bus stop for this purpose. The teams worked round the clock. During this exercise, we identified seven people who had symptoms and they were admitted in the District Hospital. The patients were provided with proper treatment and were released once they were completely fine. However, no sample tested positive for Corona.
We gave them the option to stay back in Jhansi in the temporary shelter created for them. A few people selected to stay but a majority of them were from Madhya Pradesh and wanted to reach back home. Hence, after the medical screening, they were facilitated to the neighbouring districts of Madhya Pradesh viz. Chattarpur, Tikamgarh, Niwadi, Shivpuri, Panna and Ashok Nagar and a few were from Uttar Pradesh as well.
All the persons who arrived in Jhansi by train have been enlisted with the help of DRM office, Jhansi. Similarly, people who arrived in Jhansi after March 25, by bus have been enlisted with help of ARM, ARTO and CMO staff. The lists of all these people were shared with the district magistrates of the respective districts those people travelled to.
As many as 20, 000 people in the rural and urban areas have been checked by the medical teams. All these people are under Home Quarantine for a period of 14 days. For this purpose, 4 teams each in the 8 Blocks and 12 teams for the city are on duty currently.
How is the supply of essential commodities being ensured to people amidst lockdown?
In essentials, the items included are groceries, grains, milk, medicines and a few FMCG goods. For groceries, we have developed a three-tier system at mandi level which ensures there is no crowding at the mandis and also at the local grocery shops.
We are constantly putting in efforts to ensure the supply of milk. Also, the daily collection of milk in rural areas is being taken care of.
Considering the other essentials, we have allowed neighbourhood shops to remain open for the public but they are being allowed to operate only if they ensure that social distancing is followed. In addition, in coordination with the UP Vyapar Mandal, Jhansi, a list of shops and traders who can home deliver goods has also been shared via various media channels and social media platforms.
For medicines, there are 64 pharmacies which we have listed and their contact numbers have been circulated among people via various media channels and social media platforms so that people can get the medicines home-delivered whenever in need. For facilitating home delivery of cooked food, private companies like Zomato Pvt. Ltd., Daakiya Delivery and even other small outlets have been given permissions.
Please throw some light on the three-tier system implemented in the district for managing the supply chain of essentials.
All the main mandis are open for trucks only to unload the supplies. Therefore, only wholesalers are allowed within the mandi premises. The allotted time for this is night. This ensures the supply from the source directly. Further, the stock is dispatched through tempo/ trucks to the wards/ mohallas. This ensures a proper distribution chain with no middle person involved.
Once the supplies reach wards or mohallas, the groceries are loaded onto the handcarts while ensuring social distancing. The handkart owners are the pre- designated hawkers who have been directed to hawk in residential areas to provide doorstep delivery of the groceries or are given a designated spot in the locality to sell.
Now the system of Grocery supply is totally decentralized across the city and all town areas.
Moreover, from April 1, as per the directions, Fair Price Shops (FPS) have started distribution of Monthly Quota of ration ensuring that social distancing is not being compromised. At each FPS, an officer has been appointed to ensure fair distribution and ensure social distancing and sanitisation of hands of the ration cardholders.
What is the status of community kitchens in Jhansi?
There are as many as 106 community kitchens, at present, working throughout the district. Of the total, 22 community kitchens are being run by the administration and 84 by NGOs. Currently, around 18,000 persons are being daily fed by these Community Kitchens. Up till now, more than 1,50,000 food packets have been distributed by these kitchens. When the migrants reached Jhansi, the district ensured each person was provided with food and water. Community Kitchens have been a lifeline for those who have suffered the most economically during this lockdown. We have a dedicated cell within the Integrated Control Room that has been set up to coordinate the activities of Community Kitchens and NGOs.
Considering the fact that the lockdown has brought hardships for daily-wages workers, how is the district administration planning to compensate for the loss?
As per the announcement by the Chief Minister, Rs 1000 per month compensation is being given to registered labourers through DBT. 5,402 registered labourers have so far benefited from the move. Similarly, in urban and rural areas, people who are economically weak and have suffered the most due to loss of livelihood during the lockdown are being identified. As of yet, 21,758 have been identified and registered while the amount has been transferred in the bank accounts of 17,954 persons. All the MPs, MLAs, Ward Members, Gram Pradhans and even the political parties have been asked to identify such people so that no one is left out.
How are the authorities tracking and tracing the potential COVID patients and those under quarantine?
A massive House to House Mapping exercise has been completed in the district. The aim was to map each person who has a history of travelling to a foreign country and has arrived in the district after March 12. Also, for those who arrived in the district from the other states after March 23. Apart from this, any other person who showed symptoms of COVID-19 was also identified and checked by the medical teams. For this, in Jhansi, a unique approach was followed. The city was divided into four sectors and a Deputy Collector was made in-charge of door-to-door mapping in each of these sectors. Along with this, the municipal councillors, municipal tax collectors, basic education teachers, secondary education teachers, Hydel Department linemen, civil defence volunteers, religious leaders, Vyaapar Mandal, beat reporters from the press, ration shop dealers were also asked to prepare a list of people who have come from outside. In the rural areas too, apart from the Rural Development Department, ASHAs and Fair Price Shops were also given the task of identifying such persons
Around 20,000 such people have been identified and all of them have been put under home quarantine for 14 days. Outside all such houses, a poster is placed which states the time till which the occupants are under home quarantine.
Please brief about the healthcare facilities in Jhansi and medical preparedness in the district.
We have enough medical facilities to tackle COVID-19 pandemic. Out of the above mentioned medical facilities – MLB Medical College Jhansi has been designated as L-2 level dedicated hospital; District Hospital Jhansi and CHC Badagaon have been designated as L-1 level hospitals for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Apart from this, two private hospitals – Lifeline Super speciality Hospital and Heart Centre and Chiranjeev Hospital have been designated as L-1 hospitals with a combined capacity of nine beds for isolation.
Moreover, two private hospitals Raghvendra Hospital and Kamla Hospital are being prepared to be converted into L-1 level facilities with a combined capacity of 20 beds for treatment purposes. In addition, Army Hospital and Divisional Railway Hospital have also been made ready for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Besides this, five private hospitals which have a combined capacity of 50 beds for isolation have also been put on notice and can be taken over at a notice of 12 hours when in need.
We have a quarantine facility of 120 single- occupancy rooms at MLB Para Medical Training College, Jhansi to quarantine suspects of COVID-19 or close contacts of confirmed cases. It is being scaled up to accommodate 1,500 persons. This facility will be used as a quarantine facility for doctors, paramedics and support staff as well as the officials, police personnel and frontline corona warriors.
Considering sanitization and fumigation, each and every house and premises in the city is being fumigated by a team of sanitation workers. Also, public places like bus stands have also been fumigated. Medical college and district hospitals are also regularly sanitised by Nagar Nigam, ULBs, CMO office and Gram Panchayats.
What is a COVID-19 control room that the authorities are using in Jhansi?
The control room is a technology-powered facility which has been of great help to us especially in tracking, tracing, and monitoring. We have launched a helpline – 0510 2440521 – which is operated from the control room. The helpline is functional 24×7 for any kind of emergency, query from the citizens. The facility has also been the backbone of all medical & relief operations as well as monitoring the movement of people and vehicles amidst the lockdown.
Also Read: All you need to know about Lockdown 3.0
In your opinion, what is the way forward?
As of yet, there are nine active cases in Jhansi district and we are actively working to prevent it from further spreading. Furthermore, the way forward would be to ensure that no person with Coronavirus remains undetected, house to house mapping for identification of symptomatic persons has been done. All such persons have been visited at their home by a medical team. There is obviously no epicentre at this moment but in our analysis, any future epicentres will be in the places where people have come from outside and hence a containment plan is in place and various teams are also geared to do this exercise. While the lockdown is underway, the entire district machinery is focused on ensuring that the supply of essential goods is provided to the citizens. Ensuring people who can’t afford food and essential goods, keep getting food and help from the Government. Moreover, the facilities at L-1, L-2 hospitals are kept ready to handle an outbreak of COVID-19 within the district. The coordination with the neighbouring districts of Madhya Pradesh will be crucial once the lockdown is lifted as the reverse migration of people will start. Teamwork is the only way to handle this crisis. Team Work of the Entire Society. Let’s get rid of COVID-19!