Panchayati Raj Ministry gears up to address vulnerabilities of rural India in combating COVID-19 pandemic
New Delhi, May 20, 2021
The Panchayati Raj Ministry has issued an advisory for the guidance of Panchayats to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The advisory includes an intensive communication campaign to augment awareness levels in rural communities.
The states have been asked to utilize the services of the elected representatives of Panchayats to spearhead the movement by undertaking extensive mitigation activities.
The Finance Ministry, on the recommendation of the Panchayati Raj Ministry, has released Rs 8,923.8 crore to 25 states for providing a grant to rural local bodies.
The amount released is the first instalment of the Basic (Untied) Grants and may be utilized among other things for various prevention and mitigation measures needed to combat the Covid pandemic.
According to the advisory, an intensive communication campaign should be launched to create awareness among the rural communities on the nature of the COVID-19 infection and preventive and mitigative measures, following the advice of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, doctors and medical institutions etc, while taking care to dispel false notions and beliefs.
The background material and creatives for this awareness campaign may be drawn suitably from the digital repository of the Ministry including a leaflet on “Clinical Guidance for Management of Adult COVID-19 Patients.
Frontline volunteers were to be drawn for the campaign from the local community comprising elected panchayat representatives, teachers, ASHA workers, and so on.
Suitable facilities were to be provided to them including equipment like finger oxy-meters, N-95 masks, infrared thermal scanning instruments and sanitisers.
Information on the availability of testing/vaccination centres, doctors, hospital beds etc on a real-time basis should be made available to facilitate effective utilization of available infrastructure by the rural people, it said.
The available IT infrastructure in the Panchayat offices, schools, Common Service Centres etc. may be leveraged for tracking and information display.
The advisory said the Panchayats should provide the necessary institutional village-level support catering to their respective locations. Wherever possible, they may improvise households as home quarantine locations, where a maximum of the asymptomatic COVID positive cases can be managed. Additionally, they may also set up specific quarantine/isolation centres for the needy and returning migrant labourers.
In consultation with the Health Department, the Panchayats may be designated to facilitate vaccination drives to ensure maximum coverage of the eligible population.
Relief and rehabilitation measures were to be provided considering the distress and livelihood hindrances that are likely to arise due to the spread of the virus. For this purpose, various Central and State Government welfare schemes may be leveraged towards the provision of rations, drinking water supply, sanitation, MGNREGS employment etc so that these reach the right beneficiaries, it said.
The Panchayats should be directly involved in the dispensation of such relief, including to all vulnerable sections viz. senior citizens, women, children, differently-abled etc.
Inter-linkages with the medical facilities at the nearby District and Sub-Districts should be provided so that emergency requirements like ambulances, advanced testing and treatment facilities, multi-speciality care etc are provided to those in need without much loss of time.
The states have been further advised that the elected representatives of Panchayats may take the lead with the cooperation of various other service volunteers in their areas. Village / Ward-level Committees / Nigrani Samitis in this regard may be created /activated, if not already done, to spearhead the movement by undertaking extensive mitigation activities.
Apart from advising the Panchayats to utilize the available XIV / XV FC grants as per guidelines, the possibility of provision of additional funds to them from the NDRF/SDRF may also be considered.
"The States have taken various measures including innovative ones worth citing and emulating by others. Transport plan of provisioning of ambulances in each Gram Panchayats to support the health system, two-chambered cars and auto-rickshaws for the needy as ambulances in frontline treatment centres of Kerala, self-proclaimed lockdown by PRIs in Gujarat, a migrant database for capturing the return migrants in the panchayats both from outside the state and within the state by Assam and eSanjeevani OPD, free online medical consultation for sick people by Himachal Pradesh are worth emulating," it added.