CHANDIGARH: Hookah smoking sessions - a common sight in Haryana villages - have now taken a break as village heads have prevailed upon locals not to share the smoking pipes to contain spread of coronavirus.
Playing their role in spreading awareness on coronavirus in the hinterland, the village heads or sarpanch are also ensuring that farmers follow social distancing norms during the harvest season.
"Smoking hookah is part of our culture as villagers, especially the elderly gather at a common place in the village to socialise and share the hookah.
Initially, it was a bit difficult to make them understand, but we prevailed upon them and soon everyone realised that it can be dangerous in view of coronavirus and now no one can be found smoking hookah outside," said Hoshiar Chand, sarpanch of Nazelda Kalan in Sirsa.
Sarpanch of Pabra in Hisar district Rajesh Dhillon said that smoking hookah and playing cards is quite common in villages and too in big groups.
"When we told villagers such things can be counter productive to the efforts of the government to check spread of coronavirus, they gave it up within some days," said Dhillon.
Haryana has so far reported 183 coronavirus cases.
Majority of the cases have been reported from four districts of Nuh, Palwal, Gurugram and Faridabad.
Sarpanch or village head of Handi Khera in Sirsa district, Atma Ram, said he makes it a point to go even door-to-door to ensure the directives of the government pertaining to COVID and lockdown are followed by all.
With harvesting season currently on, he has made one point clear to farmers-ensure social distancing while working in fields.
The government will start procurement of mustard from April 15 and wheat from April 20.
The procurement has been delayed this time in view of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown which has been enforced to check its spread.
"The government keeps emphasising the importance of social distancing and everyone including farmers have been told this is the key if we have to keep everyone safe," Ram told PTI.
While Handi Khera Sarpanch Atma Ram said his village has a population of nearly 2,200, Nazadela Kalan and Pabra are big villages with population of over 9,000 and 10,000, respectively.
The sarpanches said that they regularly share the information, updates and government directives pertaining to coronavirus and lockdown with villagers.
Village heads said that as wearing turbans and sporting a cotton wrap around the neck was part of village culture, everyone already has got into the habit of covering their face by using them as masks.
In several villages, locals are enforcing "Thikri Pehra", under which a few villagers, especially youth form teams to guard village boundaries to make sure that no outsider except those providing essential services or government officials enter the village during the lockdown period, a measure taken in view of coronavirus spread.
Hoshiar Chand said shops selling essentials open in his village between 10 am and 2 pm each day and he ensures that social distancing is maintained by villagers.
The sarpanches said they coordinate with the district administration to ensure the villages are sanitised.