COVID-19 Combat: Adhocism persists in Rayagada even after selected by ICMR for a community based survey


Report by Badal Tah, Rayagada: After initial days of the lock down, it seems the romanticism of administrative action in Rayagada district is dying down. It got reflected in promulgation of 144 of CrPC on last 13th May midnight and again on 14th May. According to the extracts of order of Sri Pratap Chandra Pradhan, Sub-Collector-cum-Sub-Divisional Majistrate(SDM), Rayagada, one special train carrying approximately 200 migrant Odias from South India to Odisha was scheduled to arrive in Rayagada Railway Station on 14th May at about 7 AM. Since South Indian States are badly affected by COVID-19 & Rayagada Railway station is located within Rayagada municipality, it was apprehended that general public may gather/move near railway station & besides the roads through which the buses would move carrying migrant Odias to various districts viz. Gajapati, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Nabarangapur, Kalahandi,. Koraput and Rayagada.Such movements of people/vehicle would pose a threat to public health by spread of COVID-19 which would in turn pose a danger to human life, health & safety. Therefore the SDM, Rayagada in exercise of powers conferred under section 144 of CrPC imposed prohibitory orders in the areas from Pitamahal to JK PurRoad, railway station area, J.S.Co Colony to new bus stand, NH to Collectorate(Block Office Road), Collector Res road under Rayagada & Chandili PS from 12 Midnight of 13-5-2020 to 2 PM of 14-5-2020.

Again on 14-5-2020, the SDM issued a prohibitory order u/s 144 of CrPC from 2 PM to 7 PM in the same areas as of previous day as a special train carrying 500 migrant Odias from Guntur(AP) to Odisha was scheduled to arrive on 1th May by 1 PM.

In the 1st train 121 persons arrived and in the 2nd train 88 arrived. The district administration got aware of the arrival of first train very late so also about the 2nd train. They were not even aware about the exact numbers of Migrant Odias getting down at Rayagada railway station. Though in the 1st prohibitory order, Ganjam was mentioned, nobody arrived from Ganjam district either in 1st train or in the 2nd. Had they known the arrival of trains, they would have issued one prohibitory order u/s 144 instead of two. Many migrants from outstates, who completed their quarantine long back in the district were still waiting to be deported to their home states till writing of this report. Thousands of out-states migrants traverse through Border Check Post at Kereda and other routes by walking , cycling, motor cycling, private four wheelers, private goods transport vehicles, etc and pass through mid of the town. They buy food and throw the left over inside the town. Also drink, wash and spit at roadsides posing imminent danger. Few transport goods vehicles defy the govt order by carrying few outstate passengers and not adhering the routes by misusing the Govt Pass. There are stray incidents of their thermal testing, providing the walkers food & transport. There are many incidents where the Odia entrants are brought to the town fast and then going to the targeted blocks.

A group of local scribes as responsible citizens have suggested the district administration that all these people and vehicles coming from Andhra Pradesh via Kerada gate should be diverted from Pitamahal to Siriguda via Bye-pass road. Similarly vehicles not having any work in the town must also be diverted from Siriguda & Sai International Chowk. There should be least entry of vehicles and out-state commuters into the town. The details of the entrants & their vehicles should be maintained at the entry points. The persons belonging to out states are to be properly sealed on hand, which need to be visible and let go outside the district via bye-pass with required care & dignity. The transport goods vehicles having govt pass should be strictly monitored. Strict checking should be done at the road near Majhighariani Temple as this is the main entry point of illegal entrants. Apart from the BCP at Kerada, all other borders should be sealed. Govt must involve the gram rakshi/local community/PRIs for policing. (Community Policing). The scribes have also suggested stopping vegetables by any means of transport or head loading through Kerada gate as the neighbouring places like Kuneru, Veeraghatam, Cherlapalli, Bobbili, Sitanagaram in AP are affected and scores of vegetable vendors come to Rayagada from these places. They may be potential virus carriers.

Fortunately Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, in collaboration with Dept of Health and Family Welfare, Govt of India and National Centre for Disease Control with support from State health departments and key stakeholders including WHO, India is conducting a community based sero-survey to estimate the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Indian population. Overall, the survey will be conducted in randomly selected 69 districts from 21 States and Rayagada is one among them. The survey will involve collection of venous blood samples from 400 randomly selected individuals (one per household) from 10 clusters of Rayagada district. Sera from these individuals will be tested for presence of IgG antibodies using ELISA test developed by ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. The results of the survey will provide information about spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection in different parts of the country. Besides this community-based survey, Ministry of Health is also initiating hospital-based surveillance to monitor the trend of infection in Rayagada.

“Initial romanticism on Covid-19 combat in Rayagada is slowly fading away. Though, a Covid testing centre has been declared, it is yet to be realised. There is a deficit in strict vigilance, sanitising the villages and wards & coordination. In stead of a district specific comprehensive plan, adhocism persists. Waiting for order from above has complemented to the adhoc plans. Lack of interaction, even occasional. with the media in an institutional set up like Govt of Odisha or GOI has not helped the district level plans to be carried to the public in an optimal manner. I have a hunch whether the district is really preparing itself for the community-based survey to be initiated by ICMR which will prove the real spread as there is proportionately very less testing in the district”, said Sri Rabindra Patakhandal, a social activist and a defender of RTI in Rayagada.