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Coronavirus lockdown in India: Government’s responsibility and possible measures

Lockdown of 3 weeks has been announced by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi across the country as an intervention plan to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission & curb India from reaching at stage 3 of coronavirus . As a citizen, we too have responsibilities to follow the rule laid down by the government to handle the situation collectively. The government is also working at all levels to serve the citizens better in this difficult situation & save the country from any adverse impact on economy. Awareness through all media is on place and society as collective working to combat this disease.  Since India is a diverse country and a high percentage of people are dependent on daily wage-earning. Along with privilege class, we cannot ignore the fact that poor, homeless, daily wage earners also constitute a large population in our country. They have very little resources to raise their voices about their challenges. A large section of society has become vulnerable during this lockdown and struggling to fulfill their basic needs.

Government must ensure that during lockdown when the mobility is restricted to break the chain of transmission of COVID -19 there are sections of society who cannot afford to be at home because of their basic necessity (food, water, health) depends on the daily earning. These groups require assurance and availability of basic resources at their doorsteps, so that lockdown can be a successful measure to combat this deadly disease.

As of today 1st April 2020 we have crossed the mark of 2000+ confirmed cases and 55 deceased case of covid-19 cases in India & still no treatment is available for the COVID-19

Till date there is no treatment available for the COVID-19, as of today 1st April 2020 we have 2000+ confirmed cases and this will increase by each passing day. If the condition worsens the government have to take the decision to increase the lockdown beyond 14th April 2020. If we expect society at large to show solidarity with the decision of lockdown, the government need to ensure that the citizen of India especially the vulnerable group should gain trust in the government’s plan to address their issue. In this article, an effort was made to discuss possible measures which central and state governments should take during the lockdown period for all the citizens keeping a focus on vulnerable section of society. This article will talk about the state’s responsibility towards their citizens during the lockdown, though the central government, state government and district administration is working in the right direction to tackle this situation and some of the points raised in this article are must be already in place on the ground.

We still don’t have and answer to when coronavirus will end in India or across the world?

The article is not to criticize the government but an attempt to look into the situation in a holistic manner. This article tried to explore the basic day to day challenges which a vulnerable group must be facing and requires immediate attention.

Access to Healthcare

  • Functioning of OPDs in government hospitals
  • Access of essential healthcare service like drugs & treatment for critical illness
  • Mental wellness through online counseling
  • Home delivery of medicines
  • As we know, during the lockdown period OPD has been closed in many government hospitals. A decision was important as hospitals are the most vulnerable place to get the transmission because of large crowds and the government wants to keep the risk as low as possible but have we thought about alternatives? Health care is one of the important factors, which will require immediate attention falling of which could be fatal. If OPDs will not run, the emergency department will be overcrowded, which could again be impossible to maintain social distancing, which is one of the most important factors to prevent human to human transmission. Awareness to the community through ASHA worker about the current scenario should be done. People should make aware that OPDs are closed and if at all required they can visit the emergency department. Some alternative plans should be provided to the community by making PHCs operational. Explaining the importance of social distancing and how they can maintain when visits a health facility if required.
  • Access to essential health services like the availability of essential drugs, Dialysis services, Cancer treatment, Pregnancy/Delivery cases, and cases of domestic/sexual violence should be available 24×7 in government hospitals. Because of lockdown, ill people can’t travel to the metro cities, so locally the state has to ensure that these medicines/equipment are available in the local medical stores/hospitals otherwise we might lose those people for whom treatment is available. 108 ambulance service should be more approachable and available 24×7.
  • Mental health which we often ignore might take a backseat in this situation though it is important to recognize. There could be stress about the loss of business, job insecurity can increase due to economic loss, and there could be a conflict within the marriage. There are telephonic counseling services that are available; the government should make people aware of those services. In rural areas, it could be a challenge because of a lack of resources. Panchayat can play an important role in addressing these issues in rural areas.
  • Home delivery of essentials medicines. So that people don’t have to come out to buy medicines.
  • Medical helplines should be made operational at the district/block level to give information about health services available nearby.

Access to Food

  • Food security
  • Doorstep delivery of mid-day meals
  • Delivery of essential food items
  • Operationalize local community kitchens
  • Food security must be provided to the venerable groups, the Government should ensure that people get enough food items from PDS shops. The government has raised the number of essential food items and this information should be reached out to the rural population and to the PDS shops without any delay.
  • Mid-day meals are also a right of children and this should be provided to all school children since schools are closed due to lockdown, the state should ensure that Mid-day meal school reaches the house of children. Supreme Court has also issued a notice for the same.
  • Delivery of essential food items – Both in the rural and urban areas, the government should deliver essential food items to the elderly, disabled, having a chronic disease, etc. In some urban areas, the district administration has given the license to the shops for the home delivery and the same facility can be initiated in the rural areas. Currently in some cities shops are open for some specific hours and people are coming out of their houses to buy the stuff and this practice can be used in PDS shops.
  • Local community kitchens is another alternative where people can get homemade food. This can serve the vulnerable group, so if such a program is running or will start, again it’s important to explain social distancing so that people one member from family can come and take away the food. It could be regulated by the panchayat in rural areas. 
  • There should be a regular visit of officials in the community to know the challenges like shortage of food, vegetables, etc. Communities should also make aware as were to approach if facing any challenge.
  • The government can motivate the people for Zero food wastage.

Access to water & sanitation

  • Regular & clean water supply
  • Temporary & alternative toilet facilities
  • Direct water supply is not available in many households. In Urban areas to people have to fetch water from a common tap in the community. This can again lead to the gathering of people in large numbers. In rural areas too this is the biggest challenge as people have to walk miles to fetch water or collect water from common well or tap. The government can ensure tanker supply at the doorstep to the large possible extent so that people can minimize their mobility and social distancing can be maintained.
  • Not every household has a toilet facility, either they use a community toilet or go out for open defecation. This can again lead to the transmission of disease very easily. The government cannot ban the use of the community toilet. They should ensure a separate temporary facility should be made available at least for the group of people who are quarantined due to suspected virus cases. People should encourage social distancing and can also make them aware of hygiene and preventive measures.
  • The government can think of the alternative like giving access to public toilets at a railway station, bus stand or schools if possible.
  • Large number of corporate who are giving a helping hand to the government to tackle the current situation. With collaboration, they can ensure that services are reaching to the beneficiary. They can form a small monitoring team at the block level to ensure the smooth functioning of services.

Operationalize the transportation services

  • Interstate transportation services for migrants
  • Food facilities for transporters
  • Interstate transportation services should make available for migrants workers who wanted to go back to their state. There was sudden panic as after the suspension of trains and buses. In anxiety, people started gathering in large numbers. Their anxiety should be addressed and available services should be explained to them. There should be coordination between states to tackle this issue. A medical facility should be made available if there are reaching their home town and the same should be explained to the people so that they should not hesitate to go through a medical examination.
  • Since all the Dhaba’s on the highway are closed due to lockdown, truck drivers are struggling to get the food during the transportation of essential items. The government should take care of this and provide the food to truck drivers.

Awareness about public helplines

  • It is remarkable that the government is using electronic media to generate awareness about coronavirus and debunking the myths regarding it. It should be there in vernacular languages too to have a greater impact.
  • Helplines for reporting Increase of domestic violence among women
  • Stigma to the patients – Education among masses to respect the dignity of patients who are getting recovered and not treating them insensitively. People are not allowing Doctors and Airline staff directly involved in the treatment or traveling with suspected COVID-19 cases in the housing societies. There should be strict action if any such complaints come.
  • Spreading information on NGOs & Covid-19 relief camps across India

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