With Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur continuing to motivate the panchayat heads to play a crucial role to trace and quarantine all those who returned from other states, authorities of the remote Kaza subdivision have gone one step ahead to ensure the community protection from the pandemic.
It has framed its own Covid-19 health protocols that include mandatory rapid test for all those who are coming to the area, even from within the state, as there is a shortage of health infrastructure.
Most of the visitors, comprising a large of construction workers, are now voluntarily prefer quarantine for minimum 14 days to contain the spread of the virus, a government official, who is daily monitoring the arrival of people, told IANS.
The picturesque Spiti Valley in Kaza subdivision, a cold desert dotted by tiny hamlet spread over the Himalayan peaks, adjoining Tibet, takes you to a land of Buddhism and virgin nature.
Currently, the footfall of the tourists is almost negligible. The arrival is mainly of the construction workers from Bihar and Jharkhand and Himalayan nation Nepal.
As per the local health bulletin, a total of 651 tested positive till date and 611 of them recovered. The active cases are 37. Three deaths have been reported.
Kaza subdivision was the first in Himachal Pradesh last year to sanitise the entire block to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
“A special testing post was set up at the entry point in Hurling on Monday where every visitor is tested for Covid-19. Those who tested positive are either advised home isolation or sent to government quarantine centres,” Additional District Magistrate Gyan Sagar Negi told IANS over phone from Kaza.
He said 13 people were tested on the first day at the special testing post and all of them tested negative.
Block Medical Officer Tenzin Norbu said seven people recovered from the virus on Monday, while two new cases reported in Kaza, some 320 km from the state capital.
Amid the surge in the coronavirus cases, the state last month made it mandatory that the visitors entering the state must produce Covid negative report of 72 hours.
Also they will have to remain under home isolation for 14 days and give information regarding their arrival to the local authorities as well as elected representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies.
The hill state is currently under curfew till May 16 with a daily relaxation of three hours.
Additional District Magistrate Negi said the double testing — one at the state’s entry point and another while entering the subdivision — ensures tracing of each and every visitor, comprising government employees and locals who are returning to their native places.
He said people above the age of 65 and below 10 years are not allowed to participate in a marriage.
Kaza subdivision in Lahaul-Spiti district reported 46 positive cases in the past two weeks.
Last year local women dared state Cabinet minister Ram Lal Markanda, a local legislator too, to go back as he was violating the ‘local’ health protocol of mandatory quarantine for all those who were coming to Kaza.
Sensing trouble, the minister preferred to leave the place and headed straight to the state capital.
Notably, Kaza is a Schedule V area and the constitution empowers the local communities for self-governance.
The locals — largely Buddhist residing at an altitude between 3,000 metre and 4,000 metre — cultivate the green peas, potatoes, barley and wheat on soil that is dry and lacks organic matter.
These traditional cash crops are grown in summer and cultivated in August-September.
The farming is based on snow-fed ‘kul’ irrigation system — channels to carry water from glacier to the fields.
The picturesque Spiti Valley, the paradise that straddles both India and Tibet, comprising over two dozen small, scattered villages, remains cut off owing to heavy snow accumulation for at least six months in the year.
It reopens once snow starts thawing after mid-April.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])