Response to COVID 19 from Dantewada

While the district administration Dantewada was on completing the local governance election successfully. A Novel virus’s news starts appearing in vernacular newspapers. Despite, that it was not a mind indulging rather than getting daily updates from web portals for next few days until temperature testing starts at all the airports. Although, I was on my way to explore health sector so it opens a new window to know the expecting vulnerability at global level and its precautions particularly at the district level. It was light tower view till the third week of March 2020. Getting regular calls from parents were creating a little fearful thoughts in mind for next couple of days. It also bother me for my role for the district particularly for migrant workers and destitute people. I couldn’t imagine the status for the migrants whose families are waiting for support when there is need of time.

The incoming migrants who got stuck miles away, when the world is preparing to fight Corona they aren’t available to their families. I discussed with SDM (Sub-divisional Magistrate) on the migrants influx and got shocking elements that native out gone migrants are stepping towards district through Jungle as denied entry in state and district borders. During the basic health checkups in Kuakonda block in the first week of lockdown, a bunch of migrants who came from Odisha given the input. In order to tackle the situation, Panchayat level surveillance team activated which indulges workers from administration, women and child development department, health and rural development departments. On the daily basis they were/are informing the local authority for any such information to ensure basic health checkups and other services. The most important role is being played by Aaganwadi workers, Mitanins (ASHA) and the Patwaris. As they are the most connected people to the remote villages.

Apart from the incoming migrants, we also identified migrants workers from other districts/state got stuck in Dantewada, we have coordinated with the respective departments who were engaged in any sort of infrastructure work. We got bombarded with new numbers of migrants across district who were working remotely and we were not aware of. The situation brought the administration to ensure food and health services to these needy. It is actually a tough job to provide them with food as most of them are located into remote areas, which is not easy to travel on daily basis. Even from the block level it wasn’t a feasible task particularly for two most effected blocks. After the lockdown, few crucial road connectivity’s to the interior areas has been cut down, that can only be reach either through two wheelers (in few areas) or walking. So, the situation was dealt with an idea of Ration kits to them for a certain time period like one or two weeks. This was feasible as most of the migrants were staying together in groups for construction works across the district. With all the information we have created the district profile of the migrants workers to ensure ration kits and ensure health tests. We went through Panchayat level for identification of migrants through the surveillance team activated at Panchayat level. It was shocking that more than 3300 labour migrants are stranded in other states. They were contacted thru their families members and reported by the patwaris and Panchayat sachives. The maximum numbers of migrants are stuck in Odisha and Telangana. These are the only identified cases, we can’t even imagine the pain of unidentified labours that what situation they would have been.

This thought compels to make every possible steps to ensure ration and all sort of supports to the migrants of our districts. Along with the urban bodies we starts providing Ration kits to the identified people who are neither having Ration card and nor they are capable. The identification has been done in various steps like the first list of these people we got from the waiting list or applied list for the Ration cards, secondly through the data of urban bodies and the most crucial role played by the opinion leaders at local level by providing the information of such people in their locality. Among them, few of the opinion leaders are donating raw food material, which is being distributed by the administration, while the donors list are being published to appreciate their effort in local newspapers. At one level, it is achievable to provide ration kits to the people can cook and share and these are mostly the construction migrants but the issue of destitute and daily labours was tough. As their tendency to move from one location to another for searching of food and work make it struggle to keep them tracing, We have imparted messages/information for the destitute and other labours not to change their locations, in this miking has been done in local language in urban areas along with ground level communication with those people by the urban bodies team. Till the date we are providing cooked food nearly to 1500 destitute and daily labours. They are being deliver food to the fixed locations.

Interaction with few of them in urban colony make me realise their fear with no actual information and with lots of misinformation. While few of them are very sure for strongly fight with Corona but on the same time their reaction changes thinking about daily meals and family needs. The virus originated somewhere else overseas should not bother a simple tribal person in Bastar but it was bothering them in form of their daily meals, future of their family and strictness from the administration. The sudden lockdown faded their dreams of future with an unknown virus that has never been heard not even been imagined in such environment.

Whatever, may be the timeline of struggle with COVID 19 but migrants of rural habitat are witnessing a life crisis with daily needs, family stress and future perspectives. We can’t reach individually to them for moral and thought support, but we are on to ensure daily basic needs and a proper health service. Although it is a struggle itself in terrine like dantewada, where transportation is still a challenge but we hope for the best.