Bihar Panchayati Raj department has now entrusted the task of tracking and isolation of Covid patients in the villages to the ward implementation and management committees, comprising ward members, in each gram panchayat with an aim to check the spread of Covid-19 cases in rural areas. Bihar has a total of 8,387 gram panchayats spread in the rural areas.
Ward level committees have also been told to report entry of outsiders in the villages to block-level officers (BDOs) or medical officers while monitoring the health of high risk groups including villagers above 60 years of age, pregnant women, persons having serious ailments and children.
The department is also taking daily updates from panchayats on distribution of masks, testing, and awareness about vaccination in the rural areas, where vaccine hesitancy is a serious issue, an official of the department said.
"The ward implementation and management committee in each gram panchayat have been given specific roles and responsibilities to ensure the spread of Covid could be lessened in rural areas through fast tracking, isolation and proper medical care to affected persons. We are taking daily updates from all districts and panchayats about the Covid cases," said additional chief secretary (ACS), panchayati raj department, Amrit Lal Meena.
Meena said the ward members have also been assigned the task of house to house visits to track any suspected patients with the help of local administration. "The ward members have been asked to extend all help to families where Covid cases have been detected during the quarantine period and ensure that the affected persons are not neglected or left helpless," the ACS said.
Ward members have also been told to ensure strict compliance to Covid protocols including social distancing, wearing of masks and preventing large gatherings in rural areas.
"The assemblage of people in social events in rural areas has come down after lockdown. We are trying to minimise it through coordination with ward members and trying to create awareness. Instructions have been issued that cases be filed against those flouting Covid protocols in villages, said another senior officer in the panchayati raj department, who didn't wish to be identified.
The official claimed several gram panchayats have done good work in the past few weeks by distributing masks, sanitising market places and creating awareness about the need for inoculation among the rural population.
For instance, Brahampur Karman gram panchayat in Motipur block in Muzaffarpur has reported 94% mask distribution to listed households and 60% vaccination among residents above 45 years age group. In Fatehpur gram panchayat in Belchi block in Patna district, 9,000 masks have been distributed with vaccination of residents in the 45 plus age group nearing 100%, officials said.
Similarly, Bithuna gram panchayat in Bhagwanpur haat block in Siwan district has reported distribution of masks to 2,168 families out of the 2,600 families till date, apart from organising camps to vaccinate residents. This time, the panchayat department is providing six masks to each of the 1.80 crore rural households in the state while the urban department is providing masks in municipal limits.
"In mask distribution, over ₹150 crore would be paid to rural self help group members. This decision has provided doorstep employment opportunities to poor women in these pandemic times," said ACS, panchayati raj department.
The state government on Saturday said that the Covid situation was improving rapidly and the positivity rate had dipped by more than half in just 10 days from a high of 14.04% to 6.7%. According to the health department, 7,336 out of the 1.10 lakh samples tested over the 24 hour period had tested positive. However, 73 deaths took the toll to 3,743 in the state.