Kochi

Panchayat puts up a strong fight against pandemic

Surviving a crisis is nothing new to Kunnukara panchayat in Paravur taluk.

The people of this largely agrarian region had displayed their grit and resilience in bouncing back from the devastating floods two years ago.

So, when COVID-19 broke out, the panchayat acted quickly, and that has now brought it national laurels in the form of Skotch Silver Award, considered one of the highest civilian honours, for its response to the pandemic.

The panchayat with a population of nearly 22,000 has so far reported only two positive cases. “We have given all 5,200 families in the panchayat two rounds of Ayurveda and Homeopathy immunity boosters. While 746 persons have been quarantined, tests are continuously returning negative results,” said Francis Tharayil, panchayat president. The local body now has 24 institutional and four paid quarantine facilities. Each quarantine room is sanitised and kept vacant for three days after every use.

Fumigation of the panchayat office, public spaces, and inter-district vehicles started in April itself. Fifty hand-washing facilities were set up across the panchayat to ‘Break the Chain’. In a meeting with community hall operators and religious leaders, a decision was taken to minimise programmes and maintain physical distancing.

“Political differences never marred our COVID response, and all public rallies and demonstrations stand banned in the panchayat for the next one year,” said Mr. Tharayil.

As many as 10,400 masks, two each in every household, were distributed free, and wearing masks in public spaces was made mandatory as early as April 22.

Amid this, the panchayat also ensured payment of welfare pension to nearly 4,000 beneficiaries, including widows and the disabled. Nearly 300 migrants were given food and shelter during and after the lockdown, while special registration facilities were arranged for them to book train tickets back home. A panchayat-level coordinator was appointed for the welfare of migrants.

Technology infusion was ensured by deploying a COVID Care App developed by a local engineering unit, while WhatsApp groups were formed for expatriates and coordination of frontline workers. An award was instituted to recognise households for best compliance with COVID guidelines. A chit fund was also instituted to assist entrepreneurial ventures by expatriates in distress.

As online education got under way, the panchayat runs a tablet challenge and distributed 24 television sets and provided 12 data connections for universal access.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 7:35:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/panchayat-puts-up-a-strong-fight-against-pandemic/article32272462.ece

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