As migrant workers flout quarantine norms, increase in UP's COVID-19 cases triggers fear in rural areas; Nigrani Samitis prove toothless

Some villagers groused that the panchayat pradhans are not reporting the issues to the police or concerned authorities.

Saurabh Chauhan June 05, 2020 11:24:31 IST
As migrant workers flout quarantine norms, increase in UP's COVID-19 cases triggers fear in rural areas; Nigrani Samitis prove toothless

Lucknow: With the number of COVID-19 positive cases in migrant workers arriving in different places across Uttar Pradesh rising, reports of violation of quarantine protocols, have triggered panic among residents in rural areas fearing mass transmission.

The efficacy of the ‘Nigrani Samitis’ set up to check the implementation of quarantine norms as well as lockdown violations has come under scanner as quarantine norms have been violated by many migrant workers both at home and at institutional levels.

As per the government data more than 26 lakh migrant workers have returned to different districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Although the panchayat pradhans are key players in this vigilance system, locals say that most of the village heads are reluctant to report such violations. The government formed a mechanism that requires village heads, some other stakeholders to report about any kind of violation. Even though the state health department is taking feedback from ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, the locals are still apprehensive and far from being convinced.

ASHA Sangini, supervisor of Bakshi Ka Talab area, Renu Singh said, “When we visit villages, some people flag the issue of breach of home quarantine by a few.” Several houses in the villages do not have adequate space to quarantine the migrant workers and schools are already filled to the brim.

When ASHA worker Kusum Singh of Atesua village requested a woman to keep her 22-year-old son in home quarantine and follow social distancing, the woman said, “Mein tumhari baat sunoon aur bete ko chhor doon? (Should I listen to you and leave my son alone?)”

The woman’s stance has managed to scare her neighbours. “Humari koi dushmani nahin hai kisi se lekin apni suraksha ki chinta hai. (We don’t have enmity with anyone but we are worried about our safety).”

Some villagers groused that the panchayat pradhans are not reporting the issues to the police or concerned authorities.

A resident of Muspipari village in Bakshi Ka Talab block, Narinder Singh said, “Panchayat representatives do not want to irk anyone. When we raise the issue of people defying home quarantine rules, instead of cautioning them, panchayat representatives try to pacify us.”

Many among them dubbed it as their political compulsion as panchayat members may have been eyeing panchayat election due in December this year.

Pradhan of Muspipari, Akansha Awasthi said, “We get complaints of lockdown and home quarantine violations. We try to explain to them the reason behind it. We cannot report every issue.” When asked if it was not appeasement, she said, “Our job is to listen to everyone and find a solution in the larger public interest.”

In Muspipari village, around 14-15 people who returned from other cities are home quarantined but people termed it as an ineffective solution. “We don’t blame them. Everyone in the village has small houses and home quarantine and social distancing can’t be practised,” said Rajani Kumari, a local resident.

However, some of the village heads braved the resentment of migrant workers who reached home after facing great difficulty by putting them under quarantine in the local school building.

Deepak Kumar, the pradhan of Bharsar Panchayat, has put everyone coming from other cities under institutional quarantine.

“Some people are unhappy with me but this step had to be taken,” he said adding, “We have recently quarantined two people in the school.”

Similar is the case with people in quarantine centres as well as home quarantined in Balia, an eastern Uttar Pradesh district bordering Bihar. Sanjay Yadav, resident of Babu Ka Dera village said, “Those who are quarantined in schools want to go home. They have struggled to reach here and now another 14 days in quarantine centre is adding to their worries.”

He added, “Those who are home quarantined feel privileged as there is no one to stop them. If someone complains, locals intervene not to take the issue to the police. However, villagers are more worried especially after many migrants are testing positive for COVID-19 .”

Another youth, Dinesh Kumar said, “Everyone wants others to raise the issue. Locals are worried but they won’t complain on their own but looking at the pradhan to initiate. But the pradhan being a political person would not like to annoy the locals.”

A senior government official, as well as the field workers, confirm that family members in some quarantine centres were allowed to see their relatives but only from outside the gates and even allowed to give foods.

Lucknow Divisional commissioner, Mukesh Meshram said, “We receive such complaints and there are Nigrani Samitis in every village. If the pradhan is not doing his job, other people are also there. If no one is reporting any breach, people can call senior officials, helpline numbers. We have been regularly taking action in such cases.”

Data from Uttar Pradesh's dial 112 suggests that nearly 1,900 complaints related to quarantine violations have been received from different districts across the state between 19 to 27 May.

Most of these complaints are related to migrants roaming about in villages and towns instead of adhering to home quarantine rules. Some of these complaints highlight the same issue with those quarantined in some institutions.

A police official privy to the matter said, “Most of the migrants violating the institutional quarantine complained about lack of facilities in quarantine centres.”

As far as home quarantined migrants are concerned, they do not want to be caged inside the houses. In some cases, small houses are also a reason behind violation of home quarantine, said Kusum Devi, an ASHA worker of Atesua village of Lucknow.

Close to 327 complaints in a day were received on 20 May when migrants in large number arrived at different parts of Uttar Pradesh through special trains. Similarly, 310, 312, 265, 189, 157 complaints were received on 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25 May respectively. The police official said that the trend shows that the frequency of complaints is decreasing now after a sudden spike in the number of complaints in earlier days.

Updated Date:

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