Coronavirus Outbreak: Karnataka govt creates village-level task forces, ropes in panchayat, ASHA and Anganwadi workers

FP Staff

Keeping in mind the Ugadi festive season, the Karnataka government has set up village-level task forces comprising members of its gram panchayats and local govt workers to lead and oversee the efforts against the coronavirus pandemic.

"Village-level efforts are needed to communicate to the rural public about the risks of spread of COVID-19 and the importance of taking precautions, especially of social distancing by staying at home," the govt said in a note detailing the plan.

Some of the duties that will part of the task force include conveying to the rural public the instructions of the district administration and of the health department, prevent large gatherings of people at water bodies like village wells, ponds, lakes, during social functions and processions, and strictly follow the rules of social distancing while purchasing rations and other essential items.

The task force will also be responsible to prevent the spread of misinformation and fake news on the novel coronavirus while also identifying senior citizens over the age of 65 years, and inform them and their family about precautions to be taken, and to keep a watch on their health condition.

According to the government, a total of 2,112 task force members across 176 blocks have already received training.

The govt has also permitted panchayats to to procure masks, soap, sanitiser and cleaning supplies as required out of 14 Finance Commission grants as well as their own revenues. There are 6,018 gram panchayats in Karnataka.

The task force will have the Gram Panchayat President as its chairperson and will include not just the other elected panchayat members but also a registered medical practitioner, local health centre functionary, ASHA and Anganwadi workers, a village accountant, beat police constable and the leader of local women's self-help group. The Gram Panchayat Development Officer will serve as the Member Secretary of the task force.

The ASHA and Anganwadi workers have been roped into the task force to keep a watch on the health and well-being of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The Anganwadi workers will also be responsible for delivering rations to children under the age of six and, with the help of ASHA workers will be keeping an eye on the general health and well-being of residents in their panchayat / jurisdiction, for signs of cough/fever/sore throat/cold/ flu-like symptoms and to report for further action as per laid down protocol.

Some of the other responsibilities of the task force would be to create separate quarantine spaces in affected areas, as well as prevent stigmatisation of those tested positive for the virus and their families.

The task force will have a set mechanism to give a daily report to their executive officer and taluka medical officer about the day's work and steps taken.

It will be the responsibility of the Panchayat Development Officer to ensure that proper hygiene and cleanliness is maintained in the panchayat villages, and is tasked to provide the cleaners and waste management staff with masks, gloves, footwear and cleaning supplies as well as arrange training for them.

The note said that the govt is considering if the task force should be given punitive powers like issuing notices and imposing fines in case of non-compliance.

It is being considered whether the task forces can further appoint a few volunteer marshals in each village to ensure and enforce some of these measures.

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