A ‘COVID WARRIOR’S VILLAGE JOURNEY: Tumkur District
In the presence of the Deputy Commissioner, Dr Rakesh Kumar; the Karnataka Press and the Public Communication Department and the Indian Red Cross Association, Tumkur Branch, have organized a basic fight against Covid-19. During the last week of March, they selected a few people from each district to register for an online course. After the online examination these participants were recruited as ‘Corona Warriors’. Presently there are about 202 Corona Warriors serving the districts that they are assigned to. There are totally 10 taluks in Tumkur District. There are 15 warriors in Tiptur. In the remaining 8 taluks, 10 warriors have been assigned. The Indian Red Cross Association of Tumkur says that there are more than 100 warriors rendering service in Tumkur District.
In the beginning, these associations took up the responsibility of keeping a watch on social distance and giving precautions to senior citizens. With the District administration and citizens’ cooperation they are fulfilling the requirements of distribution of free milk and food in 10 taluks. With the help of the Labour Department they are giving precautions to the unorganized sector of workers. They were able to supply necessary requirements to them. They also distributed pamphlets. They identified people who were in need of food, home and other necessities and reported to the Deputy Commissioner. Members from the radio programme, Namhalli Mobile Radio service go house to house to give consolation. It also helps in spreading the Deputy Commissioner’s message to each and every household. The radio media is working to bring a quick solution to problems that people are facing. The radio is bringing the attention of the people to Covid by broadcasting songs pertaining to Covid and also warning them through music. Projects have been planned for people belonging to the backward class, needy, tribes, nomads, etc. There is also a plan to include migrant labourers in the project. The radio has been active in gathering all senior citizens and reviewing the situation. With the result that the grampanchayat of that area has been active with 10 officers as a workforce.
In the background of the ‘Lock Down’ the most difficult task has been countering false rumours. Starting from the health point of view to distributing necessary commodities to the poor, the social service organisations are taking on the responsibilities. Much of this is done through the ‘Namhalli Radio Recorder’. It has been successfully reaching necessary information to the Deputy Commissioners through WhatsApp. The Mobile Radio Stations have been going around in the villages of Banasandra, G. Mallenahalli, Kondajji, Vignasanthe, Nonavinakere, Akkalasandra, Gollarahatti and G. C. Pura of Chikkanayakana Halli.For the past six days they have visited more than 30 villages and created some kind of confidence in the people of the villages.
As I am a ‘Corona Warrior” from Golur in Tumkur District, I have observed the following situation in this region:
- When we entered the villages with a Corona Warrior ID card and mobile radios, it was five o’ clock in the evening. People did not come very close to us. It was difficult for us to go to each house and inform them of our objective for being there. The Deputy Commissioner switched on the speaker in the car and addressed the crowd which was broadcasted. People who sat on the platforms, milking-maids, farmers who came to sell tomatoes and greens, etc. were the centre of attraction for the villagers.
- When the village people were asked to put forth their plaints and grievances in front of the Radio Vehicle and were told that the Deputy Commissioner would look into the matter and would find a solution to their problems, they came one by one and cited their problems.
The Plight of Kaidala Village:
- Farmers’ plight: About 500 families live in Kaidala Village which belongs to the Hathnahalli Village Panchayat. There are only 60 farmers in the village and the Covid-19 has brought great trouble to these agricultural farmers. There was no back- up price for the farm produce of this area. Presently under the refuge of the Irrigation Department the sale of vegetables is being conducted but arrangements for marketing outside, and for fair prices have not been fixed. People demand vegetables for low prices. Farmer Hanumanthayya asks “In this summer Iharvested
Rs. 50,000 worth of tomatoes. I have not got even Rs.10,000. I have not got back even the amount that I spent on labour. What am I supposed to do?”
- Chennappa, another resident of the same village, laments. As some miscreants set fire to their Ragi stack they lost nearly 40 bundles worth of Ragi (Millet); as a result they now have nothing to eat. “I am thinking of selling the cattle. We ourselves have no food. If we allow our cattle to die of hunger, it is not good for us.” He wipes his tears with his innocent talk. ”We have given representations to more than 25 officers, but nothing has happened. Will we get any compensation? You must only get it for us. The leaders of our village are also not prepared to listen to us. So far after begging quite a few people, we got some grass for our cattle. We do not know what will happen further. The Government should at least provide us with some food.” These are their requests.
- One lady farmer who does not wish to disclose her name says, “We have no alternative for water other than the village tank; the villagePanchayathas to build drinking water tanks for our cattle and get it filled up. There is no water in the lakes. The animals are starving for fodder. The government should do something for this.” This is their request.
- In Kaidala, Narayan the owner of a dairy says, “Soon after two weeks of lockdown, the output of milk has reduced by 20percent”.
- The scheduled castes, tribes and the backward community of Kaidala village are mostly below poverty line. They do not have basic food other than from the Annabhagya Project. There is no labour work. They are finding it very difficult to satisfy their daily requirements.
- Majority of the aged have not received their old-age pensions. Even widow-pensions have not been received for the past two months. People like them who have no children are supposed to be looked after by the Government.
- “Even when someone comes to our village they are not bothered to find out whether we are alive or dead.” An agricultural labour laments, “The shops will be open after the Lock Down. But, we should have the money to buy what we need. When all the youngsters in the house are sitting at home, will the small bundles we have now suffice?”
K. Lakkappanagara (Kondapura Gomala) and Kondapura
- In the twin places that belong to the Hathenahalli village there are approximately 85 families. Out of them 17 families live in Kondapura. The people of this area are agriculturists. They are dependent on irrigation. Other than this there are some who are in government jobs.
- The residents of Lakkappanagara are inhabitants that have come from different parts of Karnataka and even India. There are very few farmers here. About 90% of them are poor; labourers, auto drivers, and domestic workers. Some are workers in beedi and other factories. Only about 10 percent are farmers. Out of that about 10 percent of them have received the lands on contract and are doing farming depending totally on rainfall.
- Due to the Lock Down, most of the labourers are sitting empty handed. There is an anecdote to show that they are waiting for someone to come for their help. As soon as the Radio Mobile van enters the village, all the men, women and children besiege the van: and ask “Have you brought anything? Are you giving us food? Are you giving us milk?!” We respond by saying, “No, we have come to study the condition to make arrangements for it”. Hearing this, quite a few of them have narrated their woes.
- Day to day conditions:Under the guidance of the Namhalli Radio and Indian Red Cross, after inviting the leaders of the twin-villages for a meeting, we discussed the problems and requirements of the villages. Along with the points raised at the meetings, the conditions of the people of the village were also recorded.
- Two days ago, in front of Somanna’s (name changed) house people had gathered and were talking in a way that was hurtful. Somanna had taken loans from different landlords for celebrating the weddings of his two daughters and was paying interests. Presently, when the ‘Lock Down’ was announced, this had stopped. He had only two alternatives, either he had to pay the interest or else work in the farms of the person who had given him the loan. Now, as he was not getting any daily wage work, it was becoming very difficult for him, for his day to day living. Quite a few of the villagers are now in the same condition as Somanna.
- After marriage and three children, Amreen’s husband left her. She has come back to her mother’s house. Since nobody is employed in this household and the house is full of children, they are finding it difficult to feed everyone. Amreen’s mother makes a request that arrangements have to be made at least to feed the children.
- Farida is suffering from mental illness. She did not want to get married and is living alone for the past 10 years. She has not received her pension (government support) for the past three months. She says she does not want to be a burden to her parents. She has made a request for her pension and some food requirements.
- The petitions of the leaders of the village are like this: The police should stop the entry of strangers during the patrol. And the government must appoint a Health officer, organize mobile health services and provide sanitizers and masks to prevent the onset of Corona.
- The result of the ‘Lock Down’ has fallen heavily on Self-help Womens’ Organizations and Charitable Institutions. Sundramma, a resident of the village says, “There are no facilities to deposit money in the bank. We cannot even take a loan in times of distress.”
Common man’s condition in Gulur
Gulur is traditionally and historically a well-to-do place along with the Hubli station. It has a Government Hospital and it also fulfils the requirements of the people in many ways. Attached to Tumkur District, the labourers of this place have no employment. Most of the factories around this place are under lockdown. Even the auto drivers have no work and are frustrated. This village shares the problems of all other villages. The Government Hospital in Gulur has no doctors. The nurses do not interact in a proper way. Diabetics who encounter problems find it difficult to get medical support.
“Yesterday when a mad dog bit my child, I could not get proper treatment. I was asked to go to Tumkur. Even there, I did not get any help”, says Puttathayamma who is a vegetable vendor from the Gulur circle. This is corroborated by many others.
The Namhalli Radio and the Corona Warriors have recorded the problems of the village and sent them to the Deputy Commissioner. With the result, a work-force of 10 people in each Panchayat has been organized, and has been ordered to become active. Immediately the Panchayat development officers have surveyed the places and have reacted to the requirements of the villages. Recently they have contacted the tailors of the village and have asked them to manufacture masks. They have said that remuneration will be paid for those who abide by it. The Gram-Panchayat’s elected representatives and the Red Cross Association have announced that police, health care, essential requirements and their supply will be looked after.
The above article was written in Kannada by a village resident. Translation from Kannada to English was done by Ms. Srijaya Char.