How ready are we for a Global Pandemic? Learning from Covid19 Outbreak!

Submitted by Akshay Joshi | Last Updated 21/04/20
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Globally, multiple countries are fighting/managing the  covid19 crisis by adopting best-suited interventions for their respective areas. India responded to the situation by imposing the biggest lockdown for 1.3 billion people, marking  it to be a historic move.

Working as a CMGGA in the Charkhi Dadri district of Haryana, I got a first-hand opportunity to witness crisis management and how the government functions while responding to disasters/ disaster like situations. I would like to throw some light on the efforts adopted by the Charkhi Dadri administration to eliminate the spread of covid19 while also considering the needs of its citizens.
Currently the Doctors, Nurses, frontline workers, supporting staff and Police are taking necessary measures to control the spread of covid19, which is also well known and acknowledged by the public at large. citizens perhaps have limited knowledge about what the administration exactly does in a situation such as the current pandemic. Many phrases often heard by people generally revolve around ‘What is the government doing?’ or even some as common as ‘Government is not doing anything’. I believe it is too early to rush into conclusions, given that we are still in the crisis and trust the government to do its job. But wait, what is the ‘job’ exactly?

I will try and break down the exact role which any administration plays, while using Charkhi to draw examples, in a crisis situation. And I personally believe that this knowledge is important to understand the government’s perspective.

1.   Ensuring implementation of lockdown rules and creating timely awareness of services among citizens
Ensuring citizen compliance towards lockdown is one of the biggest challenges administrations are facing across states. One can still find a bunch of people staying outdoors and playing cards or consuming Hookahs on  small pavements in cities as well as villages, which collectively hampers the quarantine effectiveness. Ensuring citizen compliance of  lockdown was ensured through a two-pronged strategy.

A. First, raising the awareness and seriousness about covid19 and its impact in simpler ways. Radio, E-newspapers, Government vehicles with speakers, local cable channels were used to spread the messages in both Hindi as well as Haryanvi to reach the maximum audience.
B. The second approach was assigning duties to select officials from the administration as well as the Police department to monitor and patrol the hotspot areas. This ensured a dedicated nodal person per area for regular monitoring.

2.   Setting up of District Control Room
While there was considerable influx of information around the pandemic, it was imperative to have a well-coordinated platform for citizen-government interaction. A District Control Room has been set up in Charkhi Dadri and other districts, which is open 24*7 with a dedicated helpline number for citizens to clear their doubts and concerns, or even ask for help. In case a citizen needs to step out of their house for carrying out any essential work as defined by the government guidelines, he/she can apply for the movement passes online through the Antyodaya Saral Portal in Haryana. The request gets processed within two-three hours on average. As of today, the Saral portal has received 2, 881 requests from the citizens in the district and all of these requests were timely processed.  

3.   Essential Items Supply Chain for Citizens
Essential Items supply chain was extremely important for successful implementation of the lockdown. Availability  of fruits and vegetables without inflated rates was necessary. The Market Committee decides the rate of vegetables on a daily basis. The rate is uniform across the district. In Charkhi Dadri, apart from the appointed vehicles, 21 dedicated E-Rickshaws have been assigned which ferry across the designated area and sell vegetables.  For the supply of milk, district administration has initiated volunteer programmes, which have been quite helpful in reaching the citizens.   

4.   Food and Supplies for the needy
The brunt of lockdown is mostly faced by the marginalised communities. Taking care of each and every worker is the responsibility of Administration and with this sense of belonging, Charkhi Dadri has been successful in accommodating the needs of all the migrant workers, labourers and slum dwellers and the mine labourers. Religious organisations, Politicians, Mine association and district administration came together to distribute free ration and cooked food in specially organised shelter camps for labourers. An average of 3,000 people are getting freshly prepared food delivered at their homes. There are 12 Shelter homes up and running in Charkhi Dadri accommodating around 200 migrants across the district.

5.   Expansion of Medical Capacity, Extensive Testing and Door to Door Survey
Expansion of the Medical capacity was one of the crucial steps administrators took. As of now Ch.Dadri has 10 Quarantine Facilities with a capacity of 1,000 beds and seven Isolation sites with a capacity of 48 beds. On 5th April 2020, Ch.Dadri district reported its first case of covid19. Five villages in the vicinity of the reported case were immediately sealed and around 928 people who had indirect contact with the citizens tested positive were kept under surveillance. A total of 170 were kept in Home Quarantine, 111 in Quarantine centres and eight in Isolation wards in the civil hospital. The district administration rapidly increased the intensity and tested a total of 20, 000 people for a complete check-up, free of cost. This was one of the most crucial steps in the district, pertaining to which as a patient who tested positive in the first round was immediately treated and eventually tested negative in round three.  As of today, Ch.Dadri has zero reported cases of covid19.

6.   The Invisible warriors- Safai Karmacharis
Since the inception of the lockdown, the burden on the shoulders of Sanitation workers/Safai Karamcharis has increased ten fold. While playing the dual role of keeping the city clean as well as sanitizing the places wherever required, they also have to pay special attention to their health. The district administration has provided special gear and uniforms for them to help sustain their health while working in difficult circumstances such as the pandemic. In fact, all the above five points have been successful only because of the foundation work of our exemplary Safai karamcharis, who usually get lost in the clutter.
 
The How and Why of ‘Collective Impact’
The district administration, as strong as a spine, has adopted multi-pronged approaches – right from ensuring coordination of stakeholders, departments, employees, volunteers and citizens to the Police, Politicians, NGOs, and Religious organisations. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that without the support of every entity mentioned here, fighting this pandemic would have been a distant dream. Kudos to the efforts of  the worthy Deputy Commissioner of Charkhi Dadri, Sh. Shyam Lal Poonia (IAS), who is leading this battle at the forefront. Extremely happy to also share that he has received an appreciation letter from Honorable Chief Minister, Shri Manohar Lal for outstanding efforts in covid management. I would like to pay gratitude and respect to all the DCs, departments, and the workers at the ground-level for working as a team.

While I have learnt a lot in this time of panic and cry, the one learning that outshines others is a simple but impactful quote by the DC Shaym Lal Punia - “The mantra for success is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
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