As the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps through India, districts are being tapped by the government for timely detection and reporting of cases, and prevention. Our ‘Inside Districts’ series will feature interviews of Block-level officials, panchayat functionaries and frontline workers to understand their challenges and best practices.
The Accountability Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research is currently operational in five Indian states. For part three of the series, our field staff spoke with a Sarpanch in Fanda Block near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
The interview was originally conducted in Hindi on 1 April 2020, and has been translated.
Q: When did you first get to know about Covid-19?
Sarpanch: I got to know through the television in March, and paid focus when Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) spoke about the Janta Curfew. After this, in the first week of March, we also received instructions on COVID-19 following which we started raising awareness in the village on taking precautions.
Q: What are your COVID-19 related tasks?
Sarpanch: Many families in our village are poor, and do not have enough to feed themselves. Our priority is to provide them with ration. We are also monitoring people who arrive from outside the village, and stop them from entering. In addition, we are coordinating with ASHAs and Anganwadi staff because they get to know who has come from outside the village and has taken ill.
Also, we (the panches), the Panchayat Secretary and Ward Panch are going from house-to-house to increase awareness. Mobile calls and loudspeakers are being used too.
Q: Are you encountering any challenges?
Sarpanch: [Till 1 April 2020] Ration was unavailable in Public Distribution System stores. Apart from that, even as we get to know about non-village residents arriving, people who stay here are not listening and are venturing out.
Masks or hand sanitisers have also not been provided at the panchayat level as yet.
Q: Have you observed shortages?
Sarpanch: People who are poor have no money to buy essentials (ration, milk etc.) even if it is available. At least, black marketing of essentials has not increased.