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Fighting Covid: Vigilant villagers set own norms to keep Covid-19 away

Pockets in rural India report Covid-19 zero cases in devastating second wave

Published: 07th June 2021 08:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2021 09:13 AM   |  A+A-

Despite inadequate medical infrastructure, rural areas have used resources at their disposal to fight the second wave.

Despite inadequate medical infrastructure, rural areas have used resources at their disposal to fight the second wave. (Photo | AFP)

Express News Service

JAIPUR/PATNA/SRINAGAR/GUWAHATI: Despite the second wave of Covid-19 causing havoc in rural India, there are places where the disease faced resistance. A Combination of Covid-appropriate behaviour, shutting out of outsiders and strict quarantining helped these villages keep the infection out. There was no slackening of restrictions, as the authorities as well as people came together.

Rajasthan’s Udaipur has had 55,690 Covid cases of which 2,106 are active. However, there are nine villages in the tribal-dominated Dhar panchayat with no cases since the pandemic began. Surprisingly, none of them has been vaccinated. The key reason is the discipline displayed by villagers. They implemented their own lockdown and nobody travelled to urban areas.

These villages are inhabited by around 7,000. Block Development Officer Jitendra Singh says a vigilance team went door to door. SDO Aparna Gupta praises Panchayat Elementary Education Officer Dr Satyanarayan Suthar, who guided the team in monitoring the situation. “Suthar must have gone to each house at least 10 times. He also treated influenza-like illness symptoms,” says Singh.

Bat ‘protectors’

A village in Bihar’s Vaishali has thousands of bats on an old banyan tree. Contrary to beliefs that the virus originated from this creature in China, 9,000 people in Rampur Ratnakar village worship the bats as ‘gram-rakshak’ (village protectors). There are reasons other than that why the village has not reported any Covid case since its outbreak last year.

The village isolates for 14 days anyone who returns from outside. Amod Kumar Nirala, state president of Bihar State Panch-Sarpanch Sangh, says all villagers, kids included, wear facemasks. “When the first wave arrived, we moved across villages and spread awareness,” says Nirala. Around 60% of people above 60 and 5% in the 18-plus category have been vaccinated.

J&K’s Chanapora village, about 40 km from Srinagar in Pulwama district, has remained untouched. Inhabited by around 500 people with 60 families, the village has not reported any case in the second wave. J&K has so far recorded 2,97,602 cases and of them, 13,680 are from Pulwama. Mohammad Hussain, a Chanapora resident, says the village has mostly farmers who are confined to activities at home and farms. “We are busy in farms, where social distancing norms are followed. We avoid unnecessary travel.” Hussain says some villagers have government and private jobs, but they follow Covid SOPs by social distancing and wearing masks. “So far, there has been no positive case in the village in the second wave,” informs Dr Javaid, Block Medical Officer (BDO) of Ratnipora. 

No outsiders

In Assam’s West Karbi Anglong district, Shikdamakha village has not seen any Covid case. The secret: outsiders are not allowed. Villagers say they have managed to ward off the virus so far also by following guidelines. “Directions are clear. We must not move around unnecessarily, wear masks and use sanitizer. Since most people are farmers who spend their day in the fields, mingling with outsiders does not happen,” says Horsing Kholai, former secretary of the Village Council.

“There are youths working in cities. We are not allowing them into the village for the fear of infection,” Kholai says. Shikdamakha has no healthcare facility. The nearest health sub-centre is 2 kms away.

Similarly, a village in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur has not reported any Covid case. Manpahri in Kota development block of Bilaspur, about 130 km east of state capital Raipur, has allocated roles and responsibilities to gram panchayat representatives. “We raised awareness on preventive measures,” says Ganpat Ram, a panch.

Each individual aged above 45 has been inoculated. “Manpahri and some adjoining villages of the Kota division are free from Covid. Residents are self-motivated and follow protocols,” says TR Bharadwaj, sub-divisional magistrate.

Following guidelines

In Uttarakhand, Khalad and Chukum villages in Nainital district have passed the test of time. Villagers have their own guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Rules include mandatory Covid reports for outsiders, 14-day isolation, medicines and a controlled diet of vegetables and grains produced in the village. “Not one case has been detected due to strict adherence to Covid behaviour,” says village panchayat officer Pitambar Arya.

In Punjab, Dhirpur village in SAS Nagar district has a population of just 300. It has had no Covid case. Sarpanch Jasvir Kaur says since last year, the panchayat decided nobody will be allowed to go out and visitors won’t be allowed. “Only those with government jobs are allowed to go out on duty and return straight to the village after duty hours,” says Kaur. Only a dozen selling milk are allowed to go out, but they have to follow protocols. "All villagers have been tested. None of them positive," says Kaur.

Jharkhand’s Saadam, a small village under Gomia Block in Bokaro, had hit headlines after the first-ever fatality in the state. Since then, the village has not seen any Covid case. Villagers strictly follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and don’t let outsiders in.

(With inputs from Ejaz Kaiser, Vineet Upadhyay, Harpreet Bajwa, Mukesh Ranjan)

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