Villagers in Marathwada’s Parbhani have now taken it upon themselves to ensure that the district remains Covid-19 free. As authorities start to ease restrictions on movement and commerce, each village in the district has formed a Gram Suraksha Dal (village protection group) that mans entry points 24 hours a day to keep outsiders away and also to keep tabs on who enters and leaves the locality.
Parbhani Collector D M Mugalikar told The Indian Express that each group comprises 10 villages who have been issued special identification cards by the local administration. If Parbhani’s Guardian Minister Nawab Malik were to be believed, the initiative has reaped dividends. “You can examine official records. There aren’t many lockdown violations in the district. Villagers have themselves established roadblocks and checkposts to exercise vigil.”
He jokingly added, “These days I even get telephone calls from the villagers in the dead of the night reporting suspect vehicular movement.”
While Maharashtra is at the epicentre of Covid-19 in India, Parbhani has so far emerged from the crisis unscathed. Not a single new case has been reported from the district since April 28. “There are no active cases,” said Mugalikar.
In fact, the district has reported only two cases. “The two infected were not from the district. The first patient was discharged on April 13, while the second patient, who had travelled to the district, died on April 28 after reaching another district,” Mugalikar said.
Around 80 residents who may have been exposed to the virus due to contact with these two patients were kept under institutional quarantine. “They have tested negative. All have now been discharged,” he added.
“So far so good. We are green at the moment,” said Malik. But with no vaccine in sight, Parbhani is taking no chances. “We will continue to discourage movement into the city from red and orange districts even after inter-district transportation resumes. Those who must come to the city will be mandatorily screened and compulsorily quarantined,” said Mugalikar. As another precautionary measures, the local administration has urged residents to postpone all weddings till May 31.
Home delivery of alcohol set to commence in 21 districts on Friday. But not in any hurry to reopen vends, the Parbhani collector has made prior registrations mandatory for those keen to avail the service.
“We will prefer home deliveries as and when we decide to allow liquor shops to open. We want to avoid crowding outside the stores at any cost. Starting yesterday, we’ve asked all those interested to log onto a dedicated portal where they will identify themselves, identify their neighbourhood liquor shop and provide quantities and the brand of the alcohol they want. We’ll accept applications till May 17. In consultation with the shopowners, the administration will draw up a delivery plan. Home deliveries, if permitted, will be done under government watch,” said Mugalikar.
The state excise department guidelines make the liquor store owner responsible for these deliveries. Till Thursday evening, 2,517 had applied on the portal. Parbhani has only 13 wine shops and 58 beer shops.
To avoid overcrowding in market places even post lockdown, the district administration has adopted online platforms for cotton procurement and distribution of vegetables and groceries. A web portal has been designed for citizen grievances.
The district has also pushed the filling up of forms for availing crop loans for the upcoming kharif season online.
“Government staff will be deputed for door-to-door delivery of cash to Jan Dhan account beneficiaries… We will restart public transport in phases. Home deliveries of restaurant food will continue to be encouraged,” Mugalikar said.
Malik, meanwhile, said that the villagers have also stepped forward to donate money as assistance in beefing up the health infrastructure. “We have even equipped many of our public health posts with precautionary gear and machines,” he added. The minister claimed that elected representatives in Parbhani, cutting across parties, have effectively coordinated with the administration to keep Covid-19 at bay so far.
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