The Odisha government has started conducting training sessions for migrants returning to the state to groom them into community health workers. These sessions are being conducted at panchayat-level quarantine centres where the migrants have to stay for a while following their return.
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The state government is also offering an honorarium of Rs 150 per day for those at the quarantine centres who want to contribute in daily work.
Odisha has seen a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases following the return of migrants. Ganjam district, for instance, had two cases on May 2, but is now the worst hit-district in the state with 252 cases and 1 death. The state has so far reported 737 cases of Covid-19 and three people have died, according to an Odisha government dashboard.
D K Singh, Principal Secretary, Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Department, told The Indian Express, “We knew that not only thousands but lakhs of migrants will return. The government decided to involve panchayats and they were given the responsibility to set up quarantine centres. We are calling them temporary medical camps. As of today, in about 7,000 panchayats, we have set up around 15,000 camps. The bed capacity is about 6 lakh. Currently 1 lakh people are staying, but this number is increasing every day.”
Singh said, “We thought that since these people are staying, it would be a good idea if they are sensitised about various aspects of not only Covid, but other issues too. So we involved agencies like UNICEF. They are training panchayat-level officers, civil society members, Asha and Anganwadi workers who are, in turn, training the returnees.”
Ganjam Collector Vijay Kulange said, “More than 45,000 people have returned to Ganjam so far. We have developed a counter system at the railway station. They screen the migrant, register him, stamp him and give him a bottle of water, packed food and tissue paper. The person then boards a bus to the designated quarantine centre in their block,” he said.
“In morning, they have physical training for an hour. After breakfast, there is a Covid class. We are going to develop them into community health workers. Once a person leaves the quarantine, goes home, he will work as a basic health expert for his home, his lane, his community. He will be able to tell people what social distancing means, how to take care of old people and so on,” Kulange said. After lunch, those living at the quarantine centre can volunteer for work. “Then there is entertainment in the evening and dinner,” Kulange said.
Singh said, “If these people want to volunteer for work such as cooking, development of the school, which most of these centres have been set up in, they will be Rs 150 per day as honorarium. This is to keep them engaged and informed. Ultimately, they will go back to their villages and though we have a massive information campaign, they will be the best type of messengers.”