Thursday 29 October 2020

Ground Zero : Punjab faces bumper challenge of wheat harvesting under Coronavirus threat as PM announces 21 day lockdown

- Posted on 24 March 2020
Jagtar Singh 
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces 21-day lock down, Punjab faces a challenge that can’t be avoided.
The wheat harvesting  and procurement operations in Punjab start within a few days. The enormity of this operation in this state is unlike not only  any other state in India but also any other region in the world. And the entire operation is time bound. The farmer has to prepare the field for the next crop while the state government has to move huge stock of wheat from the mandis to the warehouses.
Punjab makes the highest contribution to the central food stock. The farming is intensive.
The state is under curfew that was imposed as the people frustrated the attempts at lock down  as preventive measure against Coronavirus.
The manpower involved  in this operation is huge. It may be mentioned that Punjab and Haryana have fully developed mandi system unlike the rest of India. The procurement operation lasts about a month.
It is the enormity of the operation in Punjab as compared to other states in India that is the main  concern.
The threat of Coronavirus in Punjab is mainly from the NRIs visiting the state and going by the official estimate, about 90,000 of them have landed here during the last about three months. The cases reported so far are that of those who have returned from abroad and those who have come into contact with them.
Punjab woefully lacks  in health facilities to meet this challenge. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has himself admitted that there are only 28 ventilators with the government hospitals in 22 districts.  A patient in Mohali yesterday had to be shifted to private hospital as the civil hospital has no arrangements. Health has been non-priority area for years. The once prestigious medical college hospitals at Patiala and Amritsar are now relics of the past. The negligence of this sector by the rulers over the years has been criminal.
Capt Amarinder Singh acted quickly at other levels. As the people failed the lockdown, the state was brought under curfew yesterday afternoon and there has been no relaxation.
A photograph carried by a newspaper on its front page sums up the Punjab approach. The pic is of a policeman manning a light machine gun mounted on a vehicle, a scene that was common during militancy. Killing Coronavirus with LMG?
As per the official release on Tuesday evening, the police “registered 232 FIRs and arrested 111 persons for violation of the curfew imposed by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in the state to combat the COVID-19 crisis, even as they worked out a comprehensive strategy to ensure doorstep delivery systems and other basic facilities to the people across the state.  While the maximum of 38 FIRs for curfew violation were registered in SAS Nagar (Mohali), 34 were registered in Amritsar (Rural), and 30 each were reported from Tarn Taran and Sangrur, said the DGP, adding that maximum number of 43 persons were arrested from Tarn Taran. While 23 persons had been arrested in Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur reported 15 arrests, followed by Bathinda (13), Ferozepur (5), Patiala (5), Gurdaspur (4) and Ludhiana Rural (2).”
“As of today, a total of 38,160 police employees in different rank have been deployed on the ground in various Districts / Police Commissionerates of Punjab for enforcement of curfew, including sealing of affected clusters (SBS Nagar District), besides maintenance of essential supplies and law and order. These include 981 volunteers”, the release added.
The Coronavirus has to be fought by the doctors and not the police.
Capt Amarinder Singh has acted quickly and now he should not lose any time in focussing on improving the health facilities.
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