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 not come back to our village. However, the government has given clear instructions 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 MGNREGS 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+ years of age categories? What difficulties are you facing?
Panchayat Secretary: In the initial phase, 60+ people were vaccinated first. It was difficult to convince older people to take the vaccine; they were not ready. We convinced them by giving examples of the people from the village itself.
Since the vaccination of 18+ people has started, villagers are facing problems because the slots are not available. People from nearby urban areas are coming to the Panchayat for vaccination whereas the villagers are not being able to register online.
Q: Are the funds with the Panchayat being put into COVID-19 work?
Panchayat Secretary: The state government has instructed that the money from the 15th Finance Commission can be used for COVID-19. Therefore, it is being spent on purchasing essential items like masks, sanitisers, gloves, etc.
Q: Is the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) being prepared?
Panchayat Secretary: The priorities have changed because of this pandemic and everyone is working accordingly. The work on GPDP started partially in March but is not yet complete.
This interview was conducted with a Panchayat Secretary in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh in Hindi on 24 May 2021, and has been translated.
Source: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters