The ‘Inside Districts’ series launched in April 2020 is a one-of-its-kind attempt to capture the experiences of 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 Sehore, Madhya Pradesh, in Hindi on May 24, 2021, and has been translated below.
Q: In the last two months, have migrant workers returned to your village? What arrangements have been made for them?
Panchayat Secretary (PS): Migrant workers have not come back to our village. However, the government has given clear instruction that if they do come back, they should be quarantined so that other people in the village do not get infected.
At present, only the work under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is being done at the Panchayat level. Work under MGNREGA is being done on a lower scale. The state government is also providing free ration to people for three months.
Q: What arrangements have been made to vaccinate people in the 45+ and 18+ age group? What difficulties are you facing?
PS: In the initial phase, people in the 60+ age group were vaccinated. It was difficult to convince older people to take the vaccine, they were not ready. We convinced them by giving examples of other people from the village itself who were getting vaccinated.
Since the vaccination of 18+ people has started, villagers are facing problems because slots are not available. People from nearby urban areas are also coming to our Panchayat centre for vaccination, whereas the villagers are not being able to register online.
Q: Are the funds with the Panchayat being put into Covid-related work?
PS: The state government has instructed that the money from the fifteenth Finance Commission can be used for Covid-19. Therefore, it is being spent on purchasing essential items such as masks, sanitisers, gloves, etc.
Q: Is the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) being prepared?
PS: Priorities have changed this year because of this pandemic and everyone is working accordingly. The work on GPDP started partially in March, but is not yet complete.