The Ministry of Finance’s Department of Expenditure has allocated Rs. 8,923.8 crore to 25 States for providing grants to Rural Local Bodies (RLBs). These grants are meant for all the three tiers of Panchayati Raj Institutions – village, block, and district.
The amount announced is the first installment of the ‘Untied Grants’ 2021-22. It may be used by RLBs for various preventive and reduction measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, it would provide additional services to the three levels of Panchayats in order to combat the Pandemic.
Moreover, as per the 15th Finance Commission, the first installment of untied grants was to be released to the States in the month of June 2021 but, taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances, the Ministry of Finance has decided to release the grant in advance of the normal schedule.
In rural India, Gram Panchayats are at the frontline of the pandemic. Here’s how they supported their communities.
Rajasthan: In all Gram Panchayats of Rajasthan, a special Gram Sabha was organized, in which ASHAs(Accredited Social Health Activist) took the lead in describing COVID-19 modes of transmission, safeguards, and control steps in all 9,876 Gram Panchayats in Rajasthan. This strategic first step was crucial in gaining the Gram Panchayat representative’s cooperation and support in maintaining prevention and control measures.
The state has used a Whatsapp group and other social media platforms to raise consciousness among the people in the villages. People are provided information at the grassroots level and several posters were put all over the significant places.
Bihar: In Gram Panchayat Singhwahini, which is only 14 kilometers from the Indo-Nepal border, the Sarpanch is leading by a successful example. Here, the development of awareness was accomplished by the use of wall writings. In Gram Panchayat Makkasar of Hanumangarh District, daily cleaning operations are carried out, and sodium hypochlorite is sprayed on the highways. Members and social organizations are distributing face masks to residents, who are also being advised to wash their hands regularly with soap and to keep social distance.
Chhattisgarh: Villagers have received training on social distancing and the measures they must take in various districts. Awareness is also being provided on handwashing to MNREGA workers by PR officials.
Odisha: Pradhan of Gram Panchayats are not only working towards awareness generation among villagers about COVID-19 and its preventive measures but also sanitizing all the buildings of government institutions like Schools, Anganwaris, offices, temples, and streets etc.
Telangana: The state held awareness meetings at the district level in all the provinces. All Sarpanchas, Councillors, Zila Parishad officials, Municipal Chairman, Tahasildars, and others received training on the appropriate Covid-19 Protocols. People of Rangareddy district took the initiative to encourage government officials to enter the villages only after sanitizing themselves.
Karnataka- Jaali Town Panchayat in Uttra Kannada district’s Bhatkal Taluk has made commendable efforts. The town panchayat took constructive steps to combat COVID-19. It has Bhatkal Beach, where locals, fishermen, and visitors congregate on a regular basis. The Panchayat President used printed pamphlets for raising awareness about Coronavirus and its preventive measures in order to mitigate the effect of the virus.
Kerala: In the Ernakulam district, the Vadakkekkara Gram Panchayat has launched a website that serves as a forum for emergency response operations.
Goa: Residents of Sonal village in Sattari (North Goa) have erected a wooden gate that is manned by children 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To ensure that people do not step out unnecessarily, the GP makes essential commodities available.
These collective efforts, solidarity, and determination have helped immensely in the containment of the disease. The community’s trust and knowledge of the local social factors can support the government’s efforts in containment and management of the second wave of COVID-19.