The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) letter to the Gujarat chief secretary on concerns and suggestions in the wake of corona virus outbreak:
CSJ is working in the districts of dang, Bharuch, Narmada, Amreli, and Bhavnagar. Based on our assessment as of 26th march 2020, the following needs your urgent attention:
1. Concern: Safe transit for people affected by disaster is the responsibility of State under various schemes including the disaster victim legal services scheme.
- Due to sudden shut down, students, migrant workers and other people were faced with difficulty. Some people are still stuck or are walking to reach their destination. https://nalsa.gov.in/acts-rules/preventive-strategic-legal-services-schemes/schemes-for-legal-services-to-disaster-victims-through-legal-services-authorities
Open a helpline where people can call and organize safe transit and food and shelter for them.
- Activate the DLSA to appoint paralegals under the two schemes and focus on this aspect.
2. Concern: There are reported instances of people who have come back from their place of work but not allowed inside their villages.
- Convert spaces like schools, community centres , panchayat bhavans etc as temporary isolation centres for two weeks
3. Concern: There are multiple instances where people are denied health facilities and treatment unless they are suspect corona cases.
- Instruct the health department to not deny treatment to patient requiring medical aid.
- Instruct the health department to have mobile health clinics in partnership with local auto association so that they have a livelihood.
- Seek help of private hospitals whose doctors are working only for emergency cases to set up mobile health facility.
4. Concern: In multiple places, efforts of NGOs and permissions to reach out to community have been blocked . NGOs have a huge presence and trained human capital that the present crisis requires
- Proactively seek collaboration with local NGOs, based on their competencies, access their local community volunteer base and organize safety measures and work passes for them
5. Concern: In the coastal areas, many fishermen who returned from the sea are not being allowed to move back to their villages.
- Organize food and shelter and safe transit for them.
6. Concern: The entry and exit of essential commodities is being stopped at nakas .this has double impact. On the one hand, people are deprived of essentials like milk, vegetables, etc on the other hand, people livelihood is affected.
- Panchayat to buy the items and sell further or pick up vans to be organized so that seller as well as buyer needs are met and drivers also get a livelihood option.
- Anganwadis and isolation shelters can benefit from the use of such items.
7. Concern: In some places, the crop is ready and farmers are not being able to sell the same due to lock down
- Alternate process of pick up from village instead of farmers having to take it to the mandi and alternative to auction needs to be explored
8. Concern: Anganwadi closure has led to problems in villages.
- Womens’s collective/single women /youth group can be given responsibility of cooking and distribution door to door.
9. Concern: In district of dang, while the buses from Maharashtra have been stopped. Lot of people have come from Maharashtra in private vehicles and entered the villages from the border.
- There is an urgent need to identify them and isolate them.Help of private medical prfessionals needs to be ensured for the same
10. Concern: Some sugarcane workers are still stuck in Maharashtra.
- Food shelter and safe transit needs to be ensured for them.
11. Concern: In some villages in Dang, some officials had come with some food kits. They arbitrarily distributed the same.
- Given that it is PESA area, where the gram sabha is empowered to select the list of beneficiaries , representatives from each faliya should be consulted to decide the beneficiaries.
12. Concern: The announcement of monetary entitlemets is welcome. However, there are people in transit, single women, old people etc., who need food and not money at the moment.
- Identification of specially vulnerable people at the village level and panchayat /women’s collective/ cSOs to provide cooked food for them.
13. Concern: In Shiyal bet, an island near Zafrabad , there is no ration shop. All transportation has stopped. People are deprived of all basic needs.
- This will be the situation of all islands. Similar islands needs to be identfieid and basic facilities need to be ensured.
14. Concern: Pipava port is not closed down . Almost 500 workers from nearby villages travel together in a bus.
- Ports have been declared as essential services . How ever there is no provision for safety gear for the people working there. This can cause serious health hazard for all concerned. Shelter and food facilities to be created such that travel is minimum. Safety gear to be ensured for all workers.
15. Concern: Safai karmcharis have not been given proper safety gear.
- Ensure safety gear for safaikarmcharis.
16. Concern: There are many numbers announced for home delivery. How ever , these numbers were found to be dysfunctional
- Tie up with local NGOs, courier and marketing chains for proper delivery. Set up mechanism through volunteers for localized delivery of essential items
17. Concern: Police force is under stress with haaving to manage multiple tasks like feeding the poor to monitoring people on the street . there are instacnes of police beating up people going out for buying medicines etc. corruption is rampant .private bodies have taken charge and are standing the village entry and controlling people coming and going out of village/urban housing society.
- Rather than informal private bodies taking charge, Police mitras should be appointed and authorized to regulate movement on the roads . NCC /NSS can be involved to play a critical role.
18. Concern: People are reacting differently to lock down. Stress and anxiety, ill information spread through WhatsApp university , fear and insecurity are in rise .Increased superstitions in rural areas. In a reported case from Meghraj in district Aravalli, there were rumours that a cow has given birth to a human baby. Experience shows that women face the brunt of this fear and insecurity and it is expected that the incidents of witch craft will increase.
- Audio-visual print communication beyond ‘wash your hands” in collaboration with media colleges is a must. Entitlement being announced from time to time need to be shared in simple language.