With about 600-odd corona-positive cases, over 320 having recovered out of that and five deaths as on Sunday, Bihar seem to be battling well against the pandemic and is only gearing up against the new challenge — hordes of migrants returning back home with a possible risk of carrying the contagion.
Unfazed and undeterred by the lurking health risk, Bihar Police is all geared up to keep it under control and is reaching out to people through social media and innovative public campaigns. In fact, the state is ready with a blueprint to employ the migrants in state schemes and projects to ensure them a livelihood on their return, but only after “passing a 21-day quarantine and strict screening checks”.
Over 10 crore people in Bihar have been screened so far under the door-to-door scheme and the early lockdown is showing its effect on state’s current corona figures, says Bihar Police chief Gupteshwar Pandey. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Guardian, Pandey credited Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for “leading from the front and acting early by enforcing an effective lockdown, which showed the results we are witnessing”.
While lauding his police force in “reacting swiftly and coming out in a different avatar this time against the ‘unknown enemy’ by keeping people tied to homes, the Bihar Police DGP didn’t miss to praise the efforts of state’s health and disaster management departments.
“It’s a collective effort under our CM’s leadership and we are battling effectively so far in all ways possible with all might and force at our disposal the results are positive, I believe.’’ Pandey added that the use of social media by the police force and other state departments working to contain the pandemic and the vast information about the virus that came through TV channels worked to have an effective lockdown in Bihar. “Lockdown in Bihar has been very timely, before the spread of the disease on large scale.
As one can see from the data itself as on Sunday, the spread of coronavirus has been prevented from getting out of hands so far,” the DGP told this newspaper. Pandey himself has been using the social media extensively for reaching out to people in villages and small towns as his videos in local Bhojpuri dialect are going viral and buzzing in heartlands. Call it the fear which has united everyone or some random thoughts which compelled the top brass, including the state’s top cop, to be on the move and reach out to people to stick to “maximum prevention against the pandemic.’’
With social distancing being the primary concern, Pandey said that a balance is urgent in Bihar today to stop people from mingling to avert the spread further. He said: “Reaching out to people is very important in adverse situations like Covid-19 and is extremely difficult too. Every person needs to be properly informed about necessary precautions regularly — like wearing face masks, washing hands with soaps, social distancing, practicing general hygiene, etc.
I took to social media to pass some key information to our under-informed state population… Social media for me and the police force has come out very handy for such urgent communication with our people in Bihar. The results are very positive. People appreciate the message and it reaches them in no time.” Along with the information blitz, which the state police and other key departments have used to suit the local audience, Pandey said, “Bihar CM’s regular monitoring and making available all resources possible, including the special financial assistance” are yielding the right results so far.
It is also a fact that with just about 200 days to go for the next state assembly elections, CM Nitish Kumar faces the toughest job of his political career, which is only next to that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The Chief Minister is leading from the front He has mobilised and deployed all resources to counter this challenge. Be it the medical staff, policemen and other officers… all are working day and night. Special financial assistance has been provided to the poor people and the government is running quarantine centres in every block of the state. Situation is monitored on a daily basis and we hope to keep that under tight limits,’’ he said.
But the fightback is not without challenges. According to the DGP, the state is now entering a phase where it has to deal with the migrant issue with perfection and with a high-level prevention module in place. “Migrant labourers are walk-
ing back to their homes and they will become the defining image of this pan-
demic. The migrants are not a handful or in hundreds.
More than 10 lakh migrant labours are on way to return to Bihar in the wake of this crisis. Bihar, therefore, faces a peculiar challenge… But we’re ready.” Elaborating the blueprint to handle the migrant is-sue, he said, “For migrant workers and students, the standard operating procedure of the state is very clear.
They are being brought by special trains only. On arrival, there will be medical examination. Then they will go to the quarantine centres for 21 days. Everywhere, there will be police escort. Throughout, social distancing will be maintained. The state government is collecting data about their skills so that they may be employed
soon in the state’s schemes and big projects.” On being asked about the “creaking health infrastructure, which has always been in news”, Pandey was quick to add, “The state health infrastructure re is being upgraded.
Moreover, the Central government is helping. We will manage this situation.” The DGP admitted that the stray cases of lockdown violation, illegal crossing of inter-state borders, misuse of social media, rumour mongering fanning communal tension and posing threat to the safety of policemen and Covid-19 warriors like healthcare personnel are big challenges being faced in the state. But carrying all these hurdles in his stride, Pandey signed off on a promising note: “We will win this battle whatever time it takes…the state will fight along the nation to defeat the pandemic.”