Rights

What the Jharkhand Govt Is Doing – and Can Do – to Mitigate Coronavirus Impact

New Delhi: To deal with the three-week nationwide lockdown, the rights group Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) has demanded that the state government, in addition to health services, should also ensure adequate income and food security to the people of the state.

“In a state with endemic hunger and undernutrition, ensuring food and other essentials for the poor should be a top priority,” read a statement released by the Mahasabha on Tuesday. According to the JJM, the Jharkhand government has been proactively working over the past few days to keep a check on the pandemic. However, the response, both in terms of health and welfare initiatives, leaves a lot to be desired.

The JJM claimed that recently, many migrant workers were left stranded without adequate government support at railway stations and bus stands. The group also said that in the last two days, the government had made some useful announcements like setting up community kitchens or distribution of public distribution system grains in advance, but they are yet to see implementation.

The JJM has therefore demanded that the Central and state governments need to take a cue from measures adopted by Kerala and many other countries to expand extensive healthcare and social welfare services to the people. In this regard, the JJM has listed out 15 demands under the head of ‘social security, public health services and awareness’.

Meanwhile, the state government has set up a control room, along with the Toll Free No. 181, to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Moreover, state chief minister Hemant Soren has been requesting chief ministers of the other states to help ensure food and necessary support is provided to the residents of Jharkhand stuck in their states.

As per media reports, after the government intervened, 50 labourers from Jharkhand stuck in Chhattisgarh have safely reached their homes in Garhwa late on Monday night. So far, not a single case of coronavirus has been reported in Jharkhand.

According to a report in the Times of India, on Monday evening Soren held a meeting with the deputy commissioners of all districts and took stock of preparations to combat a probable COVID-19 outbreak in the state. As per the report, the chief minister asked the authorities to strictly enforce the lockdown and directed that hospitals at every district keep ready a 200-bed isolation ward.

Also read: Doctors Are Running Out of Protective Gear. Why Didn’t the Govt Stop Exports in Time?

Soren also asked officials to issue passes to personnel engaged in providing essential services and keep a watch on social media platforms. “Identify the poor, daily wagers and destitute and arrange food for them,” Soren told officials, as per the report.

Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has made the following demands to deal with Covid 19 and the lockdown.

Social security

1. PDS coverage should be made universal in rural areas and urban slums and include all excluded and working-class families. In addition, food-grain entitlement should at least be doubled and OTP-based distribution system currently implemented in PDS should be replaced with “offline” method of distribution for everyone. Also provide pulses, soap and edible oil at subsidised rates (free, at least to the poorest). Provide all the commodities in advance for three months. At this time of emergency, strict action should be taken against hoarders, corrupt dealers.

2. Increase coverage of social security pensions to include all excluded elderly, single women and disabled, at least double the pension amount and provide two months pension in cash in advance.

3. All families with migrant workers, manual workers, urban homeless, slum dwellers, transgenders and small vendors should be provided an income support to cover for the income loss in this period. Adequate provisions should be made for stranded migrant workers to return to their native places. Alternatively, shelter homes can be arranged for such people.

4. Community kitchens to be set up at urban, semi-urban and block-level public centres to provide free cooked food / dry rations to anyone in need of food. Free meals to be made available to all patients and functionaries of all health centres.

Also read: In Act of Vigilantism, Republic TV Reporter Heckles Doctor For ‘Violating Lockdown’

5. Provide cooked food/dry rations comprising six eggs per week to children (in school and Anganwadis), pregnant and lactating mothers.

6. Immediately provide paid leave/unemployment allowance to all NREGA workers and registered workers, and clear all pending payments.

7. Reports of shortage and hoarding of essentials have started coming. Government should ensure adequate supply, distribution and price control of all essentials.

Public health services

1. State government should immediately share the data pertaining to number of samples tested, number of COVID-19 infected persons, number of quarantined persons, number of testing kits available in the state, status of personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and health workers, without revealing the identity of COVID suspected or confirmed person.

2. Testing facilities should be increased and in order to rule out hidden cases, a sampling exercise (like South Korea and China) of thousand samples from each district should be done within a week.

Also read: ‘Rs 100/Day in Jan Dhan Accounts, More Testing, More CSR’: The Speech That Could Have Been

3. Public hospital and health centres (including primary health centres) must be immediately strengthened with increased capacity to meet the needs of a sudden surge in patients. All block and panchayat offices should be provided with check-up facilities and adequate equipment must be provided for testing. Additional insurance cover should be provided to each health employee (including those on contract service) to boost their confidence and morale.

4. People should be encouraged to consume local food and forest produce, traditionally consumed amongst Adivasis and forest dwellers for enhancing immunity.

Awareness

1. Widely disseminate all information related to COVID-19, especially in rural areas, such as – testing and functional health centres, welfare policies, symptoms of COVID-19 and preventive measures and so on.

2. It is critical during a crisis that the government is aware of all the issues and shortcomings. Encourage citizens to regularly share ground reality of issues faced by people and implementation of government measures through media and social media, reporting to the block and panchayat level office and so on. Mahasabha will keep appraising the government regularly of the issues faced by people so that prompt action can be taken.

3. A 24×7 active helplines to address grievances and disseminate information regarding COVID-19, health and income needs, harassment by ration dealers or other service providers, etc.

4. The state government should also ensure that no-one is harassed by the police in search of COVID-19 suspects or during lockdown. Policing by people should also be discouraged.