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Coronavirus | Peace panels in Odisha help remove stigma associated with quarantine

Activists have come up with peace committees for instant dispute resolution especially relating to quarantining in three districts of Odisha.

Activists have come up with peace committees for instant dispute resolution especially relating to quarantining in three districts of Odisha.  

Their role in instant dispute resolution helps avoid violence at many villages

With conflicts and stigma associated with the COVID-19 creating bad blood among villagers, activists have come up with peace committees for instant dispute resolution especially relating to quarantining in three districts of Odisha.

Also read: Casting out stigma: On appalling images at quarantine centre

The committees set up in 36 gram panchayats covering 190 villages in Balangir, Nuapada and Bargarh districts have not only been in the forefront of making people aware of the importance of undergoing quarantine but also have worked for removing stigma attached to the pandemic.

It all started with the first lockdown when movement from one place to another was restricted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Activists formed the Virtual Community Volunteers Network (VCVN) by operating from remote locations. The only medium of establishing contacts among them was mobile phones.

The volunteers collected information of the migrants, probable date of return and counselled them on safety and precautions at destinations.

“During our regular interactions with people returning to their villages, we came across a number of issues which threatened to spoil the unity among the villagers at the grassroots. Then, peace committees involving local sarpanchs, ASHA workers and volunteers took shape,” said Prashant Kumar Nayak, who heads Palli Alok Pathagar, a Balangir-based social organisation.

Last week, a woman who came from Ludhiana to her village, Hirapur, under the Paikamal block of Bargarh district faced opposition from fellow villagers when she insisted on staying at home instead of undergoing institutional quarantine. As she did not budge, the villagers resorted to social boycott.

In the same block, a teacher posted at Jeypore in the Koraput district returned to his village Kechhodadar in same Paikamal block. He also faced social boycott. The peace committee chipped in and brokered peace. While the woman had to accept institutional quarantine, the teacher because of his inter-district movement remained in home quarantine.

Also read: Stigma hurts more than infection, says father of infant who recovered from COVID-19

Similarly, inmates of the quarantine centre at Budhpatha under the Loisingha block of Balangir district were reluctant to take food prepared by a women self-help group, members of which are from a Dalit community. The situation took such an ugly turn that the women had to lodge police complaint. The peace committee members talked to all stakeholders and a solution emerged. The woman SHG started preparing food at the centre instead of bringing prepared food.

Similarly, inmates of quarantine centres at some places have locked up rooms from inside not letting newcomers undergo quarantine.

“Our volunteers sat with people, made them aware about the pandemic and counselled them not to breach camaraderie,” said Saroj Barik, a lead member of the VCVN.

Now, volunteers are persuading people to adopt social distance and safety practices during distribution of entitlement and worksites of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

With technical support of Aide et Action, an international voluntary organisations, five local organisations — Palli Alok Pathagar, Debadatta Club, SANKALPA, AHEAD and PARDA are involved in working with the returnees and the villagers.

“Thousands of people from other State are slated to arrive at the western districts. Prevailing stigma and mistrust among people may lead to violence and spread of COVID-19. The role of the peace committees assumes huge significance,” said Umi Daniel, head of the Migration Information and Resource Centre (MiRC), Aide et Action.

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Printable version | Jul 13, 2020 11:41:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-peace-panels-in-odisha-help-remove-stigma-associated-with-quarantine/article31665180.ece

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