At a time when lakhs of people employed in different sectors have been left jobless owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Gujarat’s Dahod, one of the tribal districts of the state, has created record number of jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
According to the Central government data, Dahod broke its own record of 2,40,500 labour per day under MGNREGA generated last year by providing jobs to 2,78,484 people in 24 hours on June 17.
Speaking to IANS, Rachit Raj, the outgoing District Development Officer of Dahod, who was transferred to Junagadh as District Magistrate on June 19, said: “During the Covid pandemic, many people lost their jobs and returned back to their villages. So, it was challenge for us to provide employment to the people who had returned to their villages from different cities.”
The 2014 batch IAS officer added that history has been made in Gujarat, as no district has generated so much labour employment on a single day till date.
He said that at the all-India level, the South Parganas district in West Bengal is second on the list for generating 2.20 lakh employment on a single day.
Highlighting the initiatives in view of the pandemic, the IAS officer said: “We distributed work in the district. We initiated the work of digging community wells, which could provide water for cultivation, drinking and other purposes.”
He said that the administration also brought the work of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana under MGNREGA to provide employment to the people.
He said that Dahod district reported the highest labour engagement under MGNREGA, with most of them employed under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Yojana.
According to the officer, 12,378 households were employed in April and 77,429 in May this year. With an increase in daily wages from Rs 198 to Rs 224, they managed to sustain their livelihood, he added.
When asked given that Dahod is one of the tribal dominated districts of Gujarat, how did he control the spread of the virus in the villages as scores of people returned back from the cities, Raj said: “We ensured that the work under MGNREGA provided safety to the people. We also made the sarpanchs of the villages aware to keep a track of the Covid patients in their villages. We also set up Covid centres in the primary schools and made adequate arrangements for medicines for the people.”
The officer said that he also started a new initiative to deal with the Covid crisis named ‘Panch Mantra’.
“This included five mantras — one, we served Ayurvedic kadha called ‘Ukala’ to boost the immunity of the people in the district as suggested by the Ayush Ministry. It was provided free of cost to people.
“The second mantra was mass sanitization; the third mantra included individual sanitisation; the fourth mantra was fogging, so as to kill mosquitoes or germs or other parasites; and the fifth mantra included public address system, in which we used loudspeakers to create mass awareness regarding the dos and dont’s for corona, preparedness, elderly care etc. In this way, we tried to defeat Covid and make the entire zone corona free.
“These activities are being carried out panchayat-wise, making sure that all principles of care and caution, including social distancing, are maintained,” the officer added.
To a question about the number of people getting affected by the second wave of the pandemic and several reports of people not getting hospital beds, Raj said: “On April 18, we formed a committee comprising doctors and district administration officials for ‘Patient Audit’ to identify the people admitted to the hospitals who had almost recovered and did not need hospital beds.
“We spoke to the doctors and shifted the patients who required the least medical attention to other Covid wards so that people in need of hospital beds or ICU beds didn’t go back.”
He also pointed out that earlier this year, Dahod had bagged the best performance award under the grievance redressal category in the awards announced by Central government for the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samaan Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme.
The IAS officer further said that Dahod being one of the tribal districts of the state, they also focused on improving the nourishment of the people, especially the children and girls.
“We distributed Covid kits to the adolescent girls and children in the district, and focused on the Aanganbadi centres to provide proper meal to the children,” he said.
Raj said that to tackle malnourishment, “we covered pregnant ladies, newborns, infants and adolescent girls”.
“We screened these people and then provided them treatment to solve the problem,” he said.
The IAS officer further pointed out that a ‘Mission Mangalam’ (ladies’ self-help group) project has been initiated in the district through which women are earning good amounts, helping them become self-dependent and sustainable.
Raj also said that the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Dahod district has witnessed a decline in the last two years.
Citing figures, the officer said: “The MMR in Dahod was 51 in 2019-20, which dropped to 40 in 2020-21, which is very less as compared to the state or national average.”
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)