Dear Prime Minister and all State & UT Chief Ministers,
As a citizen of this great country, I salute all of your mammoth efforts and dedication to protect the country from the clutches of #CoronaVirus (COVID-19). Though the “21DaysLockDown” offers its share of miseries, it is certainly a much-needed pill for our survival in broader perspective.
Inspite of “LockDown”, there’re so many migrant workers (especially economically deprieved section), pavement dwellers and similar people who are left stranded – in terms of food, shelter and of course, protection from the virus. It’s really disheartening to see pictures of thousands of such people gathering near bus stations to go to their hometowns. While their anxiety is understandable, the “Community Spread” risk associated with such mass gathering and mass movement is unimaginable.
Without blaming the governments, which are already giving their best in these testing circumstances, I’d like to share a few thoughts/ideas in minimizing this risk. Instead of just tweeting or posting messages such as “Government should have done this”, “This could have been handled better”, etc, I thought that I should do something constructive and hence this open letter. I request you to take a look and implement whatever is possible (though you are the best judges of what can be implemented in this hour of crisis).
Shelter Camps based on Aadhaar/NPR or Local data
I believe it is possible to arrive at approximate number of homeless and/or migrant, temporary workers based on Aadhaar or NPR database. In some cases, District Collectors may have the local data at their disposal. Using any of these, each District Collector can arrive at the number of Shelter Camps (assuming 1 Shelter Camp per 100 people or whatever optimal number that a group of Doctors can attend to) to be setup. Based on the geographic spread of the migrant population, the District Collectors can order quick setting up of Shelter Camps across different parts of the Districts. Technology can be very well used to identify the geographic spread as well as the spots for setup of the Camps. It is very much needed to have necessary gap/distance between each camp, so that movement across camps can be prevented.
How can these Shelter Camps be setup quickly?
- Most of the Scouts, NCC and NSS members (in Schools & Colleges) have experience in setting up tents. By giving them enough protective suits such as masks, they can be deployed for quicker setup of Shelter Camps.
- There’re various NGOs and Social Enterprises that specialize in setting up bio-toilets within a short span of time. They can be engaged for toilet & bathroom facilities.
Effective communication should be made to all homeless and migrant workers in every nook and corner of the District by the District Administration. With such a communication, all those people can be asked to come to a common point.
Screening prior to movement to Shelter Camps
Once the Shelter Camps are setup, the homeless and migrant workers will have to be taken to such Camps (from the common points) by the District Administration through buses. If there is a possibility to do any quick screening for COVID-19, all those should be subjected to such screening before boarding the bus. Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 can be isolated and taken to the nearest hospital/medical camp for further treatment.
Registration at the Point of Entry in the Shelter Camps
Most of these homeless and migrant workers would have mobile connection. With their mobile number as the primary identifier, basic details of each “Camp Beneficiary” (i.e. the homeless/migrant worker) has to be collected at the point of entry. I’m sure NIC (National Informatics Centre) may already have an app (or customize any existing app with minimal work) to capture such details using a mobile phone. Of course, the Camp Number (or whatever is the identifier for each Shelter Camp) has to be recorded, so that the data can be aggregated and monitored at State or National level. On the other hand, apps such as “GramVaani” can be used to do instant communication with all the members in a Camp.
Protection in the Shelter Camps
Police or organizations such as “Friends of Police” will have to be deployed at each Shelter Camp to prevent any unauthorized movement into or out of the Camps.
Either Government Organizations or Government-authorized NGOs can provide food at the Camps. If required, a temporary cooking area can be setup near each Camp.
Regular Check-up in the Shelter Camps
There may have to be a mobile team of Doctors and Nurses to do regular check-up/screening (including those who provide protection and offer food in the Camps) in each Shelter Camp. Any potential or positive cases will have to be taken to the nearby hospital/medical camp for further treatment. Of course, the Doctors and the District Health Administration would have the protocol for the next steps in case of virus spread within the Camp.
Medical Facilities for the Camp Beneficiaries
In case there’s no nearby hospital, as some fellow citizens suggested in Social Media, nearby Schools or Colleges can be converted as temporary COVID-19 treatment hospitals.
Overall, I have specified a combination of Technology utilization and Administrative steps to handle the mass-movement scenario. Though some of the above-said steps may look elementary, the intent is to –
- Ensure that the homeless/temporary workers do not go helpless and get shelter & food
- Control or minimize the “Community Spread” within the Camps – even if some of those Camp Beneficiaries are affected by COVID-19
- Prevent large-scale movement to far off places and thereby decrease the risk of larger community spread – which may have devastating consequences such as Stage 4
- Use Technology (one or more simple apps) for complete monitoring and control of COVID-19 cases among the homeless/temporary workers population
Please do consider the above-said idea/thought/solution for implementation.
With your collective leadership and execution, I’m sure that we’ll emerge as a stronger nation in our fight against the deadly virus.
Thanks & Regards,