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When many were trying to provide a communal colour to the spread of the virus, a rare event of welcome was accorded to the health workers and doctors when they visited Azad Basti area. Minorities in the area applauded the team and promised all cooperation. A lesson to Indian across breadth and length of the country.

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IPRI # 61, 21 April 2020

COVID-19 and the Indian States
Jharkhand: Proactive Judiciary, Strong Civil Society Role, Rural Vigilantes

  Alok Kumar Gupta


Jharkhand was safe for a long time when its first case was reported on 30 March. A 22-year-old Malaysian woman was traced to a mosque at Hindpiri (Ranchi main town) where she was staying with 23 others since she came on 17 March to Ranchi by train. She tested positive and then 22 others were quarantined. Contact tracing began and administration urged passengers who travelled in the same Coach of Rajdhani Express on 16 March to report on a given WhatsApp Number. Later from the same area, a woman gave birth to a child in the Ranchi Sadar Hospital on 15 April, tested positive along with her husband. Subsequently, the police on 24 March found 11 foreign nationals from China, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Bundu area in Ranchi district and instructed them to quarantine. The lockdown measure was in place by then. Hindpiri, the containment zone was sealed and the administration then appealed to those who came in contact with the women and her group members to report and cooperate in fighting against the coronavirus crisis. Subsequently, the virus spread to other cities like Bokaro, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. By 18 April the total infected persons were 29 out of which 25 of them had Tablighi Jamat connections.

In response to an Advocate’s letter, Jharkhand High Court asked the government to respond to the logistical preparedness of the administration to address the outbreak. The questions included: records of persons who returned from abroad and outside during the lockdown; whether they were screened properly; the number of people quarantined, doctors and other health staffs engaged; personal protective equipment (PPEs) availability; status of other medical supplies; number of testing kits available and positive cases in the state; number of ventilators and other security measures. On 3 April, Advocate General of the state in his reply admitted that nearly 1,000 PPEs are there and are adequate for then and more PPEs will be acquired within one week. 

On 18 April the court observed that “a war-like situation” has arisen in the state owing to spread of coronavirus in response to a number of PIL filed to explore and pull the government on its preparedness against COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the political government was made further pro-active with judicial interventions.

The administration grew conscious and Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) at Ranchi was geared-up to preparedness. However, till 15 April Jharkhand had only three out of six medical colleges in the state as testing centres: RIMS (Ranchi), MGM (Jamshedpur) and PMCH (Dhanbad). The three has Biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) laboratories to test COVID-19. It could test only 3,000 of the total population of 3.19 crore in Jharkhand, that too only in six districts (out of 24 districts). On 19 April Jharkhand chapter of Indian Medical Association requested Union Health Minister to urgently scale up testing facilities in the state. Jharkhand doctors apprehended that manifold increase in testing is the need of the hour.  

The administration tried to be innovative to check the spread of the virus and kept people creatively engaged during the lockdown. The innovation was visible in setting up new isolation centre, restroom for doctors and medical staff, sample collection centre by using prefabricated building blocks. Dumka, Hazaribagh, and Bokaro were active with innovative ideas. Dumka administration used social media to announce competition every morning spreading awareness about rules and regulations. The competition was of fancy dress, dress-making and mehendi contests. Participants uploaded their photos and got the result the next day. Hazaribagh administration tying up with the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society engaged women’s self-help groups in making masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) at a cheaper rate. The Bokaro administration announced on 16 April in Facebook, weeklong virtual workshops on Yoga, talk show, carrier counselling, skill development in photography and painting besides Bollywood songs and ghazals.

SHG are closest to the ground and Jharkhand where poverty is very high, are helping the district administration identify pockets of hunger and starvation to ameliorate the problem. 
The biggest challenge before the Jharkhand government was to address the stranded migrants of Jharkhand in different parts of the country. On 18 April government launched a mobile app through which within a week state administration aimed to reach these workers with cash support. 

The district administration also created a separate burial ground in an isolated area at Bundu, near Ranchi for dead on account of corona infections. The Chief Minister earlier in March itself had informed the people that 300 doctors have been trained for the purposes, and officials have been empowered vide Epidemic Act to take stringent action and implement the lockdown and facilitate testing and proper treatment. He also ensured that separate isolations centres for children stands proposed and that poor shall be provided with food and cash under different social welfare scheme.

Mere 25 kilometres away from Ranchi, three villages Zara Toli, Badam and Mahilong put up self-made barricades across the periphery of the village to lock themselves in displaying posters and were not allowing outsiders to get in and insiders to get out. Village youths were patrolling in groups and even journalists had to leave their vehicles and be escorted inside. It was strong lessons to urbanites across India. 

When many were trying to provide a communal colour to the spread of the virus, a rare event of welcome was accorded to the health workers and doctors when they visited Azad Basti area. Minorities in the area applauded the team and promised all cooperation. A lesson to Indian across breadth and length of the country.

Jan Jagran Kendra (JJK) has been donating hygiene kits and emergency food supplies to economically weaker sections in the district of Hazaribagh. Other NGOs and civil society organisations are also active to help the poor at local levels. 

Dr Alok Kumar Gupta is an Associate Professor, at the Centre for Political Studies, in the Central University of South Bihar, Gaya


As of 22 April, 2020 India crossed the 20,000 mark in its total number of coronavirus affected cases with 645 deaths. The country heads to complete a month of complete lockdown and in this, while few states have been able to manage the health crisis, most are yet to recuperate. The International Peace Research Initiative (IPRI) at NIAS takes a critical look at the response readiness, mitigation abilities, societal perception and role of media in the different federal states in India while combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IPRI Series on “COVID-19 and Indian States” brings out the comparative narration and the larger picture on how India is addressing the pandemic. This initiative is undertaken by the IPRI in collaboration with the  Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS). The KAS -India Office is one of the principal partners of the IPRI and the IPRI network.

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