The Union Finance Ministry, on the recommendation of the Panchayati Raj Ministry, released ₹8,923.8 crores to 25 states for providing grants to rural local bodies. The amount released is the first installment of the Basic (Untied) Grants and it can be utilized among other things for various prevention and mitigation measures needed to combat the Covid pandemic. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of the country has recently assumed serious proportions. The vulnerabilities of the rural communities need to be especially addressed.
Comparatively low level of awareness amongst the rural population coupled with inadequate support systems in villages may create a constraining situation in dealing with the pandemic in an effective manner. Hence, the Panchayats/Rural Local Bodies need to be properly sensitized and facilitated towards meeting the challenge and provide leadership as they did last year and received appreciation at the highest level for various measures.
"Keeping the above factors in view, the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, has on the recommendation of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR), released an amount of ₹8,923.8 crore to 25 states for providing Grant to rural local bodies", read an official release by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
The amount released is the first installment of the Basic (Untied) Grants and may be utilized among other things for various prevention and mitigation measures needed to combat the Covid pandemic. The Ministry has also issued an advisory for the guidance of Panchayats as regards the action for combating the COVID-19 pandemic, which inter alia includes the following areas.
To activate the Panchayats to provide the necessary institutional village-level support catering to their respective locations. Wherever possible, they may improvise households as home quarantine locations, where the maximum of the asymptomatic Covid positive cases can be managed.
Intensive communication campaign for the awareness of rural communities on the nature of the COVID-19 infection, and preventive and mitigative measures, in accordance with the advice of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), doctors and medical institutions, etc, while especially taking care to dispel false notions and beliefs. The background material and creatives for this awareness campaign may be drawn suitably from the digital repository of the health ministry.
To draw the frontline volunteers for the campaign from the local community viz. elected panchayat representatives, teachers, ASHA workers, etc. Providing suitable facilities with necessary protective equipment like finger oxy-meters, N-95 masks, infrared thermal scanning instruments, sanitizers, etc. To leverage the available IT infrastructure in the Panchayat offices, Schools, Common Service Centers, etc. may be leveraged for tracking and information display. To activate the Panchayats to provide the necessary institutional village-level support catering to their respective locations. Wherever possible, they may improvise households as home quarantine locations, where the maximum of the asymptomatic Covid positive cases can be managed. Additionally, they may also set up specific quarantine/isolation centers for the needy and returning migrant laborers. In consultation with the Health Dept, the Panchayats may be designated to facilitate vaccination drives to ensure maximum coverage of the eligible population.
Providing relief and rehabilitation measures considering the distress and livelihood hindrances that are likely to arise due to the spread of the virus. For this purpose, various Central and State Government welfare schemes may be leveraged towards the provision of rations, drinking water supply, sanitation, MGNREGS employment, etc so that these reach the right beneficiaries. The Panchayats should be directly involved in the dispensation of such relief, including to all vulnerable sections viz. senior citizens, women, children, differently-abled, etc.
Establishing a proper inter-linkage with the medical facilities at the nearby District and Sub-Districts so that emergency requirements like ambulances, advanced testing and treatment facilities, multi-specialty care, and much more are provided to those in need without much loss of time.
The States have been further advised that the elected representatives of Panchayats may take the lead with the cooperation of various other service volunteers in their areas. Village / Ward-level Committees / Nigrani Samitis in this regard may be created /activated, if not already done, to spearhead the movement by undertaking extensive mitigation activities.