Authors – Rajashekhar Reddy Boya
Malkangiri District Administration was doing regular works till the 10th March 2020 and I was on submission of proposals and getting updates from CSR agencies because of financial year ending. Also I was submitting the proposals on SDG award fund of Niti Aayog. Till that time the Novel Covid-19 virus notified cases has been identified in India and all the Airports were cautiously testing all the international passengers who are coming to India. Few cases were notified in Telangana state and the direct buses are running from Malkangiri to Hyderabad on daily. So the district administration has already started concerning about the challenges if the Novel Covid-19 virus attacked any person in Malkangiri. I was involved with education department closely, So DM has called me and told to do some initiatives on handwashing and hygiene maintenance in schools, also instructed to cancel all assembly sessions in schools. I was started my activities in schools with education department.
On 20th March 2020 a meeting was organized with district level officials on preventive activities of Covid-19 and formed a committee in same meeting. I was also a part of that committee and major role is to establish quarantine centres at every Gram Panchayat and upgradation of PHCs and CHCs.
Malkangiri District farmers are mainly depended on rains for farming. Majority of these farmers are native tribes except two blocks Khairput & Podia where the migrant Bengali people are in larger numbers. Paddy is major crop in Kharif season (June to October). Only Khairput and Podia blocks farmers have been sowing in Rabi season (November to April) that’s too vegetables and fruits. So every year during harvesting time, business persons from Raipur, Chhattisgarh comes to Malkangiri to buy fruits. Due to lockdown situation across the country, this time the business persons were not able to get product. During our visits to monitor the preparations of quarantine homes, we found that few farmers were left the farm to cows and bulls for feeding. The same was also reported in few local news channels.
During our discussions at District control centre, it came to our notice that the farmers are facing issues in selling the perishable products like fruits and vegetables. District Administration tried to contact the vendors from Raipur, Visakhapatnam etc. But due to lockdown situation the demand is low and facing the difficulties in supply of vegetables and fruits. We have contacted other districts in Odisha but no one has any clue about this.
One of our BDO, Mr. Umashankar Dhalai, OAS suggested that the perishable items like vegetables fruits can be procured through women Self Help Groups and can supply at door step of public. This initiative could avoid the people who are getting out to buy vegetables and crowds at market places. Also it can be livelihood activity for families of WSHGs. As per suggestion the District Project Manager, Odisha Livelihood Mission identified 69 SHGs across the district who are acting as producer groups to procure vegetables from farmers and supply to 22 SHG members who are responsible for supply at door step of public. Farmers were identified who are producing the vegetables and fruits with help of Village Agriculture Officers and tagged with selected 69 SHGs to procure the produce. Auto Rikshas have been hired by 22 SHGs and started the selling of vegetables and fruits. Three SHGs of one block have gone to some extent and installed refrigerator in autoriksha to sell Milk and Milk products at door step. This initiative not only given a relief to farmers but also created a livelihood activity to Women SHG members. Till the date they have sold more than 500 (approx.) quintals of vegetables and more than 700(approx.) quintals of watermelon fruits across the district.