Done with the second week of the 21-day nationwide lockdown, India must thank the residents of its rural areas, whose self-imposition of restrictions and disciplined actions have set an example in the history of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
With unique and innovative ideas, and self-policing actions, it seems that the villagers from even the remotest parts of the country have taken the lockdown more seriously than their urban counterparts.
Here’s a glimpse how residents of some of the villages across India self-enforced the precautionary measures, that too with an iron fist.
In Tamil Nadu, road blockades were witnessed in the southern and the Delta region. Roads connecting villages in and around Melur and Usilampatti towns of Madurai have been blocked by the villagers with thorny shrubs, said sources.
The move came after a resident of a neighbouring village, who had returned from abroad, tested positive for COVID-19, said officials.
Besides, former village sarpanchs have also asked the villagers to tie neem leaves and sprinkle turmeric water in and around their houses as a disinfectant.
A similar situation was reported from Trichy and Samayapuram, but the sealing of village borders in Delta region did not last long as people had to venture out for essential needs, and to their farms and for selling their produce.
Initially, the road blockade did not affect much, but as days went by and their savings came to an end, we finally had to venture out, said Palaniswamy, a resident of Echampatti, Trichy.
Roads connecting to several villages in Karnataka’s Mysuru, Chikkaballapura, and Chamarajanagar, have been blocked to restrict the entry of outsiders who, they think, could be the potential carriers of the deadly coronavirus.
Some villagers are insisting the outsiders to first get screened at the district hospital and that they’ll be allowed to enter only if they show no symptoms.
In villages like Haradanahalli in Hassan, Honganur in Chamarajanagar, Hanchya Sathagalli in Mysuru, Melukote in Mandya, roads have been barricaded and are also being guarded.
The measures are causing inconvenience to some as well. Sridhar Viswanathan, a resident of a gated community in Chikkaballapura’s Mandikal taluk, said the senior citizens living in his community are finding it difficult to venture out to buy essentials due to the blockade.
A resident of Hanchya Sathagalli village said people coming from Bengaluru are not being let in without them undergoing screening at the nearby government hospital. Meanwhile, in Honganur, the village chief has announced fines ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹2,000 on people who gather in violation of the social distancing norms.
In several villages in Telangana, the locals have barricaded the entry and exit points, besides digging up trenches and placing thorny bushes on the roads to prevent entry of outsiders. In some villages, the sarpanchs have come forward to guard the barricades.
In Adagaon, a remote village in Adilabad district bordering Maharashtra, the villagers even passed a resolution regarding the blockade, which said the village development committee members and panchayat officials will arrange the essentials and the locals need not venture out for that.
Barricades were also erected at Adilabad’s Dhima village. In Sangidi village, the mandal revenue officer and other staff have erected fences to shut the border with Maharashtra.
Similar resolutions for barricading roads were passed in villages of Sangareddy district too. The youth there have been at the forefront to enforce the lockdown and social distancing.
In Medak’s Andole, a TRS MLA directed all village sarpanchs to shut all routes in the villages and implement complete lockdown. Several shops in rural areas are also urging people to maintain social distancing while buying.
The residents of Vepagunta village in Khammam have closed entry points using logs, and those in Dhammapet village have dug trenches around its borders.
Several VDCs in Nizamabad have taken steps to prevent people from entering their villages. They are also monitoring public movement within the village. Residents of Rachannagudem in Khammam have set up wooden barricades at the entry points of their village.
The gram panchayat staff and the residents in Kothagudem’s Koyagudem have parked four wheelers on the roads and placed wooden blocks to block roads.
In West Bengal, while some villages have sealed off certain areas to restrict unnecessary movements, some have built quarantine centres on their own. In several villages in other districts, the locals have erected bamboo barricades or placed wooden benches to prevent movement of people. In Purulia district, a group of seven migrant workers, after being advised home quarantine, isolated themselves on a treetop, setting an example of self-imposed restrictions.
Residents of Durgukondal block in Chhattisgarh’s Naxal-affected Kanker district have blocked roads leading to villages like Goyanda and Hamatvahi, bordering Maharashtra. Locals claim no one is being allowed to enter or exit any village in the block. However, the road blockades have affected movement of police and government officials, who have asked the villagers not to block roads.
In the northeast, community-level implementation of the shutdown is helping the battle against coronavirus. While some villagers have sealed their areas to restrict unnecessary movement, some are building quarantine centres on their own in their villages in the north-eastern states.
Villagers at Hangrum hamlet in Dima Hasao district of Assam constructed huts with bamboo poles and banana leaves, which will function as quarantine zones for villagers who might arrive from their workplaces outside the state.
In Mizoram, the local level task force (LLTF) volunteers are helping the authorities enforce the lockdown. If they find anyone violating the rules, they are punishing them by making them sweep the roads or similar tasks.
A similar scenario was witnessed in the villagers of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, where the locals have used logs and bamboo barricades to block roads.
(With inputs from Prabhakar Tamilarasu in Tamil Nadu, Suresh Dharur in AP/Telangana, Prabhu Mallikarjunan in Karnataka, and Samir K. Purkayastha in West Bengal)