Over 200 villages sealed by panchayats in Madhya Pradesh to prevent Covid spread
Panchayats in Madhya Pradesh have stopped the entry of outsiders and migrant workers into at least 200 villages by sealing their borders and set up quarantine centres to prevent the Covid-19 spread as 15-20% of fresh infections were being reported from the rural areas, officials said. The proportion of the infections reported from villages has gone up by four times while it was under 5% in September, according to the state rural development department’s data.
The panchayats began sealing the villages in Bundelkhand, Malwa and central regions as migrant workers began returning to their homes in rural areas as lockdowns to check the second Covid-19 wave were imposed across the country. Many of the returnees have tested Covid-19 positive.
Madhya Pradesh on Friday reported 12,762 cases and 95 deaths.There were 92,773 active cases in the state as the surge in infections has overwhelmed hospitals and triggered shortages of medical supplies and oxygen. The second Covid-19 wave has pushed daily infections above the 350,000-mark daily in the country.
The panchayats have set up centres, where the returnees have to quarantine for 14 days before entering the villages after testing negative for the disease. Officials said in the Hoshangabad district alone, 130 villages have been sealed after Covid-19 cases were reported under the jurisdiction of over a dozen villages.
Shivram Katare, the secretary of the panchayat in Hoshangabad’s Dongarwada village, said entire families have been found infected in neighbouring villages. “...as many as six people died of Covid 19. So, we have decided to seal the village and we are happy that no one tested positive of Covid-19. The village has a population of over 2,000 people and many returned from the cities after the lockdown... they are at quarantine centres where we are providing food and other facilities.”
Many village panchayats have formed vigilance committees to check the entry of outsiders. “It is hard to seal the borders of a village... We have used bamboos and ropes to seal the village. We have also formed a vigilance team of 20 people to check the entry of people into the village,” said Meshram Singh, a resident of Bari village in Chhatarpur district.
Dhani Ram Gupta, a social worker from Sagar district’s Kevlari Kalan village, said they have not only sealed the border but were also extending help to people who have tested positive. “In our village, two youth returned from Sagar city and were tested positive. We shifted them to a hospital and also provided all kinds of help to their families. The basic objective of doing this is to set an example for villagers that they should not be afraid if they develop any symptom. We will not discriminate against those who will test positive; we will take care of them...”
Hoshangabad collector Dhananjay Pratap Singh said teams that include auxillary nurses were helping the villagers in screening outsiders. “We will win this battle with community support, and we are happy that villagers are coming forward on their own.”
Sheelendra Singh, the Chhatrapur collector, said, unlike last year, the villagers are not taking Covid-19 lightly. “They are showing alertness this time as the number of positive cases in rural areas has increased.”
Panchayat and rural development department principal secretary Umakant Umrao said since there is no nationwide lockdown, people were returning to their villages using public transport. “So, there are chances of the spread of the infection. In the past two weeks, 75,000 people have returned to their villages. Panchayats have developed about 15,000 quarantine and Covid care centres in the villages by using their funds. Our focus is to contain the spread of the infections in rural areas, and we are hopeful of success.”