Chandigarh: In Punjab, villages have shown the way to tackling the COVID-19 crisis amid the stringent curfew restrictions in place through `self-isolation’, while ensuring smooth movement of essentials.
In a big boost to the state government’s battle against COVID-19, as many as 7842 villages of Punjab’s 13240 villages have self-isolated themselves, to check further spread of the deadly pandemic. The Village Police Officers (VPOs), recently appointed by the Punjab Police as part of its unique ‘One Cop for One Village’ scheme, are playing a pivotal role in the facilitating the self-isolation.
Villagers have joined hands with the police in this bold measure of voluntary lockdown, and are also assisting police patrolling parties in restricting movement and preventing the entry of any unauthorised person. Only those carrying valid passes or essential services are allowed into the villages, which have constituted special isolation teams that helped the police force in the initial stage of curfew to sensitise the rural masses on the need for tight restrictions in the prevailing situation.
Interestingly, drug peddling in these villages has reduced significantly due to the presence of village watchers – an incidental but welcome side-effect of the self-isolation. This is because the villagers recognize one another and can immediately identify any trouble-makers, according to DGP Dinkar Gupta.
The self-isolation exercise began in the early stages of the lockdown when village panchayats were motivated by DSPs, SDs & SHOs to enforce the curfew restrictions. They were apprised about the benefit of voluntary village sealing in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Responding positively to the persuasion, villagers started blocking the entry points and setting up nakas to control movement. Social media campaigns also helped in motivating self-isolation.
The VPOs then took over to become the bridge between the villagers and the supply chain of essential items and urgent medical services, according to the DGP, who had launched the scheme on the directives of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder from Amritsar in February.
The DGP said Captain Amarinder has extended his appreciation for the role played by the VPOs in ensuring self-isolation of these villages, which have formed committees to effectively manage the self-isolation. The committees include the Sarpanch, Pradhan and Ward Panch of the village, with the VPOs staying in regular contact with the houses through a Whatsapp group that includes village/ward committee members.
These committees are facilitated by the local police in ensuring regular supply of essentials, such as medicine and food, as well as supply of fodder and animal feed into the villages. Veterinarian are allowed to visit into these self-isolated villages. Lifting of milk from villages by Verka and others is also being facilitated, while helps is provided, on demand, at PS and PP level on urgent basis for critically sick and other medical emergencies.
In some villages, complaints of misbehavior by youth deployed by the villagers at the nakas during evening/night time were received, but these were resolved through liaison between the villagers and police officers, said the DGP.
On the directives of the DGP, war rooms have been set up at the district level, and regular contact is maintained with the villages to assess the ground situation and ascertain any
paucity of essential supplies. All directions and advisories of health department and the government are directly announced at the village gurdwara sahibs and temples.
Volunteers are issued I-cards to help in the process of implementing all orders. They work to maintain social distancing and follow up on quarantined persons.
In Amritsar City, all 25 villages have voluntarily locked down while in Amritsar Rural, 158 of 840 villages are in self-isolation. The numbers for other districts are: Barnala (92 of 142), Bathinda (all 302), Faridkot (125/176), Fatehgarh Sahib (178/437), Fazilka (82/369), Ferozepur (490/699), Gurdaspur (382/665), Hoshiarpur (40/1639), Jalanadhar City (17/61), Jalandhar Rural (840/840), Kapurthala (538/554), Khanna (266/374), Ludhiana City (156/287), Ludhiana Rural (157/279), with Mansa (all 241), Moga (all 324), Patiala (666/966), Pathankot (347/443), Ropar (618/667), Sangrur (571/599), SAS Nagar (all 420), SBS Nagar (479/493), Sri Muktsar Sahib (225/235), and TaranTaran (103/550).