After losing about a dozen villagers to Covid-19 in the second wave between April and May, Saroda village in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur district has come out with its own model of pandemic management to combat further waves.
Relying on the community’s self-discipline, the model includes community vigilance, peer-to-peer assistance, formation of ward committees for monitoring, information dissemination through WhatsApp, and regular engagement of villagers with medical experts through virtual meeting apps.
In April, Saroda – with a population of 5,000 – lost a 45-year-old man to Covid-19, creating a flutter among the residents. The village panchayat decided to go under a self-lockdown for a fortnight, but compliance posed a challenge. The youth came forward to ensure compliance and also resource mobilisation through crowd-funding for sanitisers, masks, steamers, oxymeters, medical kits and aurvedic kadha.
“The lockdown yielded encouraging results. The cases went down from the subsequent week. Community vigilance helped in ensuring strict compliance of masks and social distancing when out. This helped villagers cultivate a habit of precaution. Today, barring a few violators, mostly everyone wears a mask when out,” said Mayank Jani, who had created a WhatsApp group, ‘Saathi’, to share job-related updates for youngsters, but later decided to convert it as a platform for Covid-related engagements.
Besides prevention, there was a bigger challenge to manage and monitor the infected persons and their families in the village. “We adopted an approach of ‘watch your neighbour’. As a result, the neighbours didn’t just keep a vigil on them, but also ensured they are not left unattended when in need of groceries, medicines or any other kind,” said Jani, who works as a pharmacist in Udaipur.
Commending the people-driven initiative of self-discipline and pandemic management, Suresh Ola, DM, Dungarpur, said: “This was really a good initiative as this was self-driven by the people. After witnessing about 80 cases initially, the youth groups inspired other citizens to impose self-isolation in the Dungarpur district. Post 10 days of self-imposed lockdown, the cases went down. They helped the administration to conduct the door-to-door sampling, distribution of medical kits.”
Notably, despite the State government’s announcement of the first unlock and easing of restrictions, villagers in Saroda decided to keep it strict. Even today, the markets close by 5 pm. And during the market hours, shop-owners follow and make others follow norms on social distancing and masks.
Known for his Bhilwara model of Covid management, Rajendra Bhatt, Udaipur Divisional Commissioner, said: “Districts such as Dungarpur, Udaipur, Banswara, Bhilwara and Chittorgarh have been giving a tough fight to the Covid second wave. It is a matter of pride that 934 tribal villages in Banswara district have not witnessed any Covid cases even in the second wave due to self-awareness and following guidelines. Similarly, self-made groups in Dungarpur also secured the villages and provided exemplary support.”
“People had gone into a shock after sudden outbreak and severity of the disease. There were dayswhen two to three deaths occurred in a day. Even para-medical staff were under fear. We decided to mobilse local volunteers and started engagement of experts with the villagers to quell their fear,” said Jignesh Upadhyay, another member of the WhatsApp group, who brought medical experts and ayurvedic doctors to connect with villagers using video meet apps.
The villagers now say they are prepared with their model to combat fresh outbreaks. “Barring oxygen concentrators, we have secured most of the resources, including oxymeters, steamers, basic medicines, and understanding about Covid. The village is now better prepared than ever,” said Upadhay.