Odisha faces newer challenges in tackling the pandemic

Nihar Satpathy

Nihar Satpathy from Bhubaneswar

The performance of the government of Odisha in managing the challenges arising out of the Covid19 pandemic so far has been quite exemplary. Even it has set the model for the others in many respects . It was this low profile state on the eastern parts of India which adopted many smart  steps such as  making the mandatory online registration of all incoming travellers from abroad entering the state laced with a cash incentive of Rs.15000 to the people who made such registrations way back in the middle of March this year,  even before any other state could rise to the threat of the  pandemic. On another instance it was the first state to be ready with a roadmap for the extension of the first phase of the lockdown even before the prime minister could formally announce it on April 14 giving it a countrywide effect. The core team of bureaucrats and professionals stationed at the state secretariat have been striving day in and day out with meticulous execution of the micro level strategies to mitigate the challenges thrown by the pandemic.

The result of these committed efforts under the experienced leadership of Naveen Patnaik is for all to see. The number of confirmed cases of infections has yet to enter the three digits figure.  As regards the doubling rate of the infection it stood at 34.12 days triggering a note of appreciation from the centre. It has been a result of sound management of contact tracing and case management.  

But the state now faces challenges from an unforeseen quarter. It is from the neighbouring state of West Bengal which may eventually prove to be a spoilsport. There is influx of many migrant workers by road from there into the state. Many of them are suspected to be carriers of covid19. Quite a good number of skilled and semiskilled workers from Odisha are employed in Kolkata and the adjoining areas. Now their being out of the work due to the lockdown and being under the scare of the spreading  Pandemic many of them are heading home even though travel is prohibited on the highways. It is a daunting task for the state administration to seal the borders since many of the incoming workers are using unconventional routes such as the village roads and even paddy fields for crossing the borders.

The way in which the pandemic has been handled in West Bengal stands in stark contrast to the professionalism meted out to it in Odisha. In spite of all its exemplary efforts Odisha appears to be set to lose the gains made so far by way of its committed approach. It is rattled by the invisible threat from the neighbouring state.

The director general of the Odisha police recently visited the bordering areas of the state adjoining  West Bengal in order to explore the scope for further plugging the holes in checking the influx. But fool proof measures to seal the borders proved evasive.  

Under these circumstances the chief secretary of Odisha has announced complete shutdown in three districts of Balasore, Bhadrak and Jajpur for a period of 60 hours beginning at 10 pm on Thursday. The state government may take a further call on the matter for extending the lockdown after reassessing the situation. It conforms to the communication issued by the ministry of home affairs, Government of India issued on April 15 which has given a free hand to the state governments to take up stricter measures than what has been specified by the central government.  

The war-room on Covid19 at Bhubaneswar seems to be all set to meet the eventual challenges cropping up from such unexpected quarters. The spirit has touched a chord and the common citizens of the state appear to be in a mood to lend support and a helping hand to the authorities in this regard. 

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