All 22 villagers staying at a makeshift quarantine facility, which was set up by Barnala’s Pakho Kalan panchayat, were allowed to leave before completing their isolation period after a brief protest Monday. The “unauthorised” isolation centre had been set up at the village’s primary school to house locals who had come from Rajasthan, Delhi and Ludhiana. Those who protested claimed that they were being forcibly kept there as the centre was not set up by the Health Department.
The village health worker has now pasted quarantines notices outside houses of all these persons to ensure that they complete their 14-day isolation.
Pala Singh, a villager in his late 40s who had walked from Delhi for five days to reach the village on April 12, was also kept in the school. He used to work as brick kiln worker on the outskirts of Delhi. Pala had no issue in staying inside school, but said that he was dependent on his family for food daily.
Sohan Singh and Gurpreet Singh had reached Pakho Kalan riding a motorcycle from Ludhiana and even they were kept inside the school. Few others who were housed here had come from Jaipur.
Gurmail Singh, nambardar of village, said,”I, along with 9 other villagers, had gone to Jaipur taking paddy stock to Jaipur. We came back on April 5 using a curfew pass. After that we went to the primary school to self-quarantine ourselves. However, later they sent 11 more persons in the same school who had come from different states or districts, to which we had objections. We got upset when Pala Singh came from Delhi on Sunday and he too was sent here.”
He added that the centre was getting overcrowded as even family members were coming in to give food to their loved ones.
Gurpreet Singh, a health worker who used to visit these 22 villagers on daily basis, said,” I along with one more employee used to go for their daily check up. It was an initiative by the panchayat as all of them had come from COVID-affected districts or states. This was an effort of the village, so food and bedding were being arranged by villagers themselves. Most of them had no issues except 2-3 persons. No one among them had any symptoms and were not tested for coronavirus. GoG volunteers also checked on them on a regular basis.”
Explaining the need for the centre, Gurpreet added: “It was done as a number of villagers here were from SC families and had one-room accommodation. School had 9-10 rooms so isolation was possible. They have now all gone to their houses, we have put home quarantine boards outside their houses. Their families have been given guidelines. We will continue the daily health check-up.”
Monday’s protest outside the school was led by five inmates.
Barnala Civil Surgeon Dr G B Singh said, “This was not an isolation centre of Barnala Health Department. Panchayat did it on its own. We have sent villagers to their homes and they will be examined in their houses only. Now there is no issue between villagers and panchayat.”
Laddi Sidhu, husband of village sarpanch Balkaran Kaur, said that the isolation centre was created as those who came from outside had themselves raised a demand for it.