The ‘Inside Districts’ series launched in April 2020 is a one-of-its-kind attempt to capture the experiences of the district and Block-level officials, panchayat functionaries, beneficiaries, and frontline workers, on their challenges and best practices.
This interview was conducted with a Panchayat Secretary in Rohtas, Bihar in Hindi on 26 May 2021, and has been translated.
For many workers returning to their villages, there is no employment forthcoming from Panchayats due to a lack of funds.
Q: In the last two months, have migrant workers returned to your village? What arrangements have been made for them?
Panchayat Secretary: Migrant workers have come back to the village again. The government has talked about ensuring employment for them, but a large number of workers have returned, and the Panchayat does not have enough work for them.
The tenure of all the Panchayats in Bihar has just been completed, and whatever funds were there with the Panchayat have been spent before the completion of the tenure. Due to the lack of funds now, no new work is being started.
A community kitchen has been set up by the government in the village where migrant workers and other needy people are being provided with three meals a day.
Q: What arrangements have been made to vaccinate people in the 45+ and 18+ years of age categories? What difficulties are you facing?
Panchayat Secretary: Roughly sixty percent of the 45+ population in my village is vaccinated. The remaining people are not ready to take the vaccine because of rumors.
Some people say that this vaccine is for vasectomy, others say that people die after six months of taking the vaccine. Some people are also saying that deaths are taking place because of high fever after the vaccination. There are many other rumors among the villagers about the vaccine because the vaccination process is not getting completed.
For the 18+ category, we don’t have enough vaccines in our Panchayat. But there are also very few people who are coming to take the vaccine because they believe the rumors. These rumors are a major obstacle in the vaccination process.
Q: Were there any critical COVID-19 patients in your village? Did they get the required treatment?
Panchayat Secretary: There were two critical COVID-19 patients in my village. One of them died because of a low oxygen saturation level, but the other person recovered. At that time, oxygen cylinders were not available in the Primary Health Centre (PHC). Even now the PHC does not have enough oxygen cylinders; the facilities available in the district hospital are also not satisfactory.
The government has been telling people to contact the nearest health center in case of COVID-19 symptoms, but people are not taking this seriously. They try to treat themselves with home remedies or go to a local medical practitioner who does not have the required qualification.
Q: Is the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) being prepared?
Panchayat Secretary: GPDP has not been made since last year. We will have to conduct a general assembly for this, which is not possible during the pandemic. Also, GPDP is not a priority for the government right now, that is why we have not received any instructions regarding it.