By Vikas Prakash Joshi in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana
The lockdown imposed on March 24, 2020, has disrupted food distribution and supply across the country, especially in the rural areas. One such case is of Targisingh village, Gunupur block, in Odisha’s Rayagada district. Targisingh is remote, not easy to access and home to the tribal community.
Due to WOTR’s regular and ground-level communication with the Wasundhara Sevika Renu Sabare, our Social Development Officer Kasturi Samal was informed on April 4, that for three months the village had not received the rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS), resulting in unbearable hardship. Once the lockdown was imposed, the situation worsened.
A shocked and worried Kasturi Samal tweeted the news, tagging key stakeholders like the Rayagada District Collectorate and the Odisha Right to Food Mission on April 5. Within a day, on April 6, the villagers were not only given their due rations for the previous two months of February and March but also for April, as well as Rs. 1,000 per household. Swift action was taken by Amrit Ruturaj, Project Director, District Rural Development Agency, Rayagada, and the money and rations were provided through the Gram Sarpanch.
The message for both WOTR and our readers is: social media if used properly in a timely manner can lead to prompt action even in a crisis as difficult as COVID-19.
Besides using social media to create awareness among government authorities about problems on the ground, WOTR is also collaborating with the government in three other areas: procuring material for masks, assisting in identification of returning migrants from cities and creation of awareness.
Measures WOTR is undertaking
1) Procuring material and providing masks
An example of this comes from the villages of Odisha’s Gunupur block, in Rayagada district. Here, WOTR has been promoting the local production and sewing of masks, for distribution among the local village communities, in collaboration with government authorities. WOTR helped in procuring 100 metres of cloth, in collaboration with the block-level office at the Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Odisha. A total of 1,200 masks will be produced for the village community, one mask for every ration card holder.
2)Assisting in identification of returning migrants, immunization and distribution of medicines
Across the country, in WOTR project villages, thousands of migrants have returned from the cities. At the moment, in states like Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh, through our Wasundhara Sevikas, WOTR is helping the local administration to identify these migrants and keeping a roster of the same, as well as identifying those persons who have symptoms of COVID19, counseling them to remain in quarantine. Besides this, our Wasundhara Sevikas are also helping in distribution of medicines and immunization in rural communities.
3) Awareness creation
WOTR is currently assisting local administrations in creating awareness, across all the different states. The initiative has taken several forms, including painting messages on walls with vital information about the common symptoms of COVID-19 in Madhya Pradesh, instructions that one should stay at home during the lockdown period in Odisha, as well as conducting awareness sessions in villages on how to wear masks and effective hand washing methods in Rajasthan. Besides, we are also distributing soft copies of communication collateral in Madhya Pradesh, to help the local field staff educate themselves on different aspects of COVID-19 and to the people in WOTR project areas. A brief instructive session on creating awareness for instance.
WOTR is collaborating with the government on two different fronts: first, using social media to alert government authorities to problems seeking immediate action, and then directly assisting government bodies in various COVID-19 relief activities. Through this collaboration, we hope to be a source of support to governments, and bring about much-needed relief to the rural communities in distress.