Smart Administrative Response To COVID 19 Crisis In Bokaro Jharkhand-Mukesh Kumar IAS

COVID-19 crisis adversely impacted the entire world and all the countries struggled to come up with mitigation strategies to arrest the spread of this deadly disease. In the face of such a disaster, the District Administration of a district in the state of Jharkhand, Bokaro took early comprehensive states to combat this global pandemic and its possible impacts such as hunger deaths, loss of livelihoods, integration of reverse-migrant labourers, pressure on health infrastructure, mental health issues and change in the very social fabric of India.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in India on 30th January, 2020 and as of date, nearly 6.5 lakh Indians have been affected by this acute respiratory disease. Indian administrative machinery however realized very early on the necessity of stopping the spread of the disease in its tracks as had been manifested by the havoc wreaked by this pandemic in Italy and US. Therefore, early steps in the form of pan-India lockdown were taken after doing extensive cost-benefit analysis by the government. However, it threw up severe and extensive challenges at the district level in the form of controlling the spread of the disease by spreading awareness and providing safety gear, maintenance of lockdown, providing adequate nutrition to the Indian populace without violation of lockdown, fighting the fear psychosis associated with the disease, providing health facilities to those affected and do contact tracing and promoting positivity in the society during these depressing times.

Fig 1: Rate chart of Smiling Bokaro Hand Sanitizer that was shared on social mediaSignificance of District Adminstration
In the face of this crisis, the District Administration took the responsibility of enforcing the vision of the Center and the State governments to mitigate the disastrous situation. The district bureaucratic machinery is at the core of India’s governance model of being a welfare state. What happens in the districts influences the state and in turn the country. The District Administration ensures effective service and goods delivery, including social security and safety nets. Its moral and legal obligations extends to ensuring the 3As: Availability, Accessibility and Affordability for each and every section of the society, with a special stress on the subaltern and vulnerable such as women, children, senior citizens and ‘divyang’. To fulfill the 3As, the Administration has to:

* Be Available always to cater to the needs
* Be Adaptive to the changing times
* Display Agility in complex circumstances and
* Be compassionate to those Affected.

During the unprecedented nationwide lockdown to stop and control the outbreak of the virus, the 4A framework has been at the forefront of Bokaro Administration’s approach to handling the pandemic, especially in reaching out to the society with care, affection, and at the same time maintaining security and harmony.  

District Administration as a Proactive Strategist
The first case of COVID-19 was detected in Bokaro on 4th April, 2020 but Bokaro District Administration had already started planning for risk mitigation and adaptation way before showcasing that grassroot administration needs to be agile and proactive in the face of new emerging disasters. As this is an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis, therefore precise coordination of all the departments is a prerequisite for effective disaster management strategy. To ensure this, the very face of government machinery in the district, the Deputy Commissioner Bokaro took to the helm and personally monitored all the critical aspects associated with the strategy for pandemic containment. At the very outset of the pandemic outbreak, a district level coordination plan was discussed to bring all the stakeholders to the same page and instill confidence in them about the vision and mission of the government. One of the critical aspects done initially was a comprehensive stakeholder mapping as follows:
Listing of all the stakeholders which have important role to perform under this emergency situation

Department-wise plan, along with gap analysis
Role-mapping and Iteration for every stakeholder by the Deputy Commissioner

The Administration was clear from the inception that it had to take extensive measures to prevent deaths due to both COVID-19 and due to hunger. Embracing this as a talisman, district-level sub-committees were formed with crystal-clear Standard Operating Procedures to tackle all the foreseeable problems. Few of the more critical committees are as follows:

District-Level Committee for coordination and compliance directly under the Deputy Commissioner for daily monitoring

Health Committee for sample collection, contact tracking, enforcing home quarantine, conducting sanitization drives in containment zones and in general enforcing the guidelines of the Ministry of

Health and Family Welfare
Supply Committee for ensuring that good grains are distributed both by PDS and non-PDS channels, and in general fool-proofing that nobody goes hungry.

Logistics Committee ensuring smooth management of quarantine centres and bringing in the stranded migrants to the district

Monitoring Committee for frontline monitoring through CCTVs to observe quarantine centers, food centers, containment zones

Technology Committee for promoting state-of-the-art technologies such as drones and geo-fencing, used for enforcing the lockdown and mandatory home quarantine guidelines.

Geographical Information System was used to map containment zones (including extracting demographic data) and institutional arrangements in the periphery such as didi kitchens, daal Bhaat kendras, the entire critical infrastructure of the district such as hospitals, police stations, panchayat bhawans, schools etc.

Three-tier mechanism consisting of field level flying squad team, a nodal officer for each Administrative boundary/block and a district level officer at the district level to ensure on-ground delivery and goal-achievement,.

Fig 2: Sticker used on packets of home-delivered vegetables.District Administration as a Path-Breaking Innovator
Institutions and authority hold relevance only when they are able to adapt to fast changing and unforeseen circumstances. Considering the fact that this was a situation for which no country, including India, was ready, the administration had to blink fast and at the right time to combat the crisis. In the initial days of the crisis, there was an acute scarcity of hand sanitizer, handwash and protective equipment throughout the country. In the face of this tumultuous and life-endangering situation, Bokaro District under its initiative, ‘Smiling Bokaro’’came out with locally produced hand sanitizer at a fraction of the marker price by taking ingenuous support of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. In addition, this hand sanitizer was produced by local industry and with the cooperation of local women SHGs in line with the concept of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’. This sanitizer was not only used in the district but also on request by other districts sent to them to minimize the shortage of hand sanitizer in Jharkhand.

The District Administration exhibited another epitome of innovativeness when it utilized e-commerce platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy for home delivery of essential goods and services such as daily-use vegetables and grocery at nominal prices which prevented community transmission of COVID-19 and helped the district stay relatively safe during the ordeal. In the true spirit of matrix administration, the District Administration also networked with other organisations such as Rotary International for door-step delivery of the essentials. These actions prevented mass frustration in the public and helped them stay nourished and safe during the worst phase of the crisis.

District Administration as a Humane and Compassionate Guardian

Today India too realises the importance of mental health as an important parameter of well-being. So in a first of its kind initiative, an online campaign named ‘Tales of Happiness’ was launched at the sole behest of the District Administration to promote optimism and well-being. The social media platform of Facebook was leveraged to air daily live performances by eminent professionals in their respective fields such as singers, dancers, photographers, arts and crafts professionals, painters, yoga instructors, professors etc to provide food for a healthy soul and body. Online classes are also held on this platform to help students cope with school shutdowns.
Keeping the needs of all sections, like women and children on the forefront, the district administration in the containment zones distributed a customized ‘Happy Kit’ to the children which contained art books, drawing kit, stationary kit, puzzles and play-balls. In the same vein, ‘Suraksha Kit’consisting of IFA tablets and sanitary pads was provided to women and adolescent girls which eliminated the need to venture outside for the basics.

The District Administration leveraged latest technologies to the maximum limit. An Integrated Voice Response System was set up with a dedicated call center for addressing issues of the local citizens as well as those stranded outside the state borders. The grievance redressal rate of this IVRS was monitored directly by the Deputy Commissioner leading to quick, efficient and effective disposal of the grievances.
 
Fig 3: A poster to popularize the IVRS facility that was posted on social mediaA unique and futuristic initiative of the District Administration was in the form of Project ‘SARAL (Safe Arrival and Accommodation of Labour)’ which successfully addressed three issues: (i) to keep a complete  check of the people coming inside the district perimeter (ii)strengthening the identification process of the individual in case of the outbreak & (iii) future engagement of the people as per the skill set in economic activity by creating local avenue for them. The sheer scale of the migrant labour crisis can be gauged from the fact that the District Administration received 32314 labourers while the expected figures were only 19102 labourers.  SARAL is a technology-based solution, to measure, manage and mitigate the daunting task of management of the incoming migrants in the district. a google form was designed to collect multi-dimensional information of the traveler. The form captures their personal details, their place of origin, details of the mode of transport, destination in Bokaro, their profession/skill and so on. The digital form is being filled by staff of the Administration deputed at various entry points of the district (checkposts/railway station). The Administration now has at its disposal a huge chunk of data, from which insights are being made via a custom-made dashboard. The fact that data entry is happening in real time, insights are also reflected real time, hugely aiding the Administration in making quick decisions.ESRI ARCGIS portal was used by the District personnel for management, sound and speedy decision-making process. The platform was used for creating heat-maps of India and also of different states depending on the number of people of Bokaro stranded there. This helped the Administration immensely in optimal human resource deployment and efficient logistics planning.

Another major dimension to the COVID crisis is creating local employment to all those who have migrated back to the district. The SARAL data set is now being used to launch Project “KAAMGAAR”. The project acts as a bridge in linking those who need services (such as drivers, plumbers etc) and those among the migrants who have those skills. A website has been created where users who want to avail service can go and get in touch with the service provider directly or through our intervention. Apart from this, the Administration is engaging them in MGNREGA activity.

Fig 4: A view of a part of SARAL dashboard that contains vital information for the district administration 
Fig 5: A chart from the SARAL dashboard, showing block-wise entry of reverse-migrants

Fig 6: A table from the SARAL dashboard that shows the state-wise source of reverse-migrants

Fig 7: A chart from SARAL dashboard that shows the cumulative number of people entered for the month of May 

As we are in the 3rd month of the current situation and considering it as the new normal, the Administration has come up with the safety and security drives for keeping the spread of the virus under check. The Bokaro Administration has made a detailed IEC plan “CAWACH- Creating AWareness and Action against Covid through Hygiene”. Information dissemination and awareness generation is a critical aspect of combating COVID as the role of false rumours can be detrimental to the peace and security of the people of Bokaro . CAWACH aims to be an inclusive awareness and sensitization campaign targeting all sections of the population. The major agenda of the CAWACH revolves around the “golden triplet” comprising of wearing mask, hand washing and social distancing. Various initiates like dedicated channel in the name “Smiling Bokaro” to keep people informed, “say no” campaign to increase the usability of mask, pop culture promotion of preventing COVID through wearing masks, using sanitizers, maintaining social distancing etc through cartoons and puppet-based animations and “har ghar cawach” campaign are planned under the CAWACH framework.In sum, this pandemic has shown the world how resilient and innovative the Indian bureaucracy is and how it works at the forefront to tackle one-of-its-kind issues. This pandemic though has been tough to tackle for the entire world but is has also shown how every challenge is a new opportunity. The lessons that COVID-19 has taught us will hopefully go a long way in strengthening governance to be more effective, efficient, economical and people-centric.

ESRI ARCGIS portal was used by the District personnel for management, sound and speedy decision-making process. The platform was used for creating heat-maps of India and also of different states depending on the number of people of Bokaro stranded there. This helped the Administration immensely in optimal human resource deployment and efficient logistics planning.

Fig 8: Screengrab from the GIS Portal. Larger the circle in a geographic area, the greater the incoming population. Note how major clusters can be identified and logistics can be planned accordingly.
Fig 9: Screengrab from the GIS Portal. Larger the size of the circle, more the number of people of Bokaro struck there due to the lockdown. This was used in bus-route mapping.

Fig 10: Mapping of a few food centres (CM Daal Bhaat Kendras and Mukhya Mantri Didi Kitchens) across the district. A total of 117 daal bhaat kendras and 328 didi kitchens fed upwards of of 50,000 people a day

Fig 11: Mapping of all important health facilities in the district
Fig 12: A screengrab of the KAAMGAAR web portal

Fig 13: A screengrab of the dashboard that gives the details of skill profiles of the reverse-migrants

Another major dimension to the COVID crisis is creating local employment to all those who have migrated back to the district. The SARAL data set is now being used to launch Project “KAAMGAAR”. The project acts as a bridge in linking those who need services (such as drivers, plumbers etc) and those among the migrants who have those skills. A website has been created where users who want to avail service can go and get in touch with the service provider directly or through our intervention. Apart from this, the Administration is engaging them in MGNREGA activity.

As we are in the 3rd month of the current situation and considering it as the new normal, the Administration has come up with the safety and security drives for keeping the spread of the virus under check. The Bokaro Administration has made a detailed IEC plan “CAWACH- Creating AWareness and Action against Covid through Hygiene”. Information dissemination and awareness generation is a critical aspect of combating COVID as the role of false rumours can be detrimental to the peace and security of the people of Bokaro . CAWACH aims to be an inclusive awareness and sensitization campaign targeting all sections of the population. The major agenda of the CAWACH revolves around the “golden triplet” comprising of wearing mask, hand washing and social distancing. Various initiates like dedicated channel in the name “Smiling Bokaro” to keep people informed, “say no” campaign to increase the usability of mask, pop culture promotion of preventing COVID through wearing masks, using sanitizers, maintaining social distancing etc through cartoons and puppet-based animations and “har ghar cawach” campaign are planned under the CAWACH framework.

In sum, this pandemic has shown the world how resilient and innovative the Indian bureaucracy is and how it works at the forefront to tackle one-of-its-kind issues. This pandemic though has been tough to tackle for the entire world but is has also shown how every challenge is a new opportunity. The lessons that COVID-19 has taught us will hopefully go a long way in strengthening governance to be more effective, efficient, economical and people-centric.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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