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Northeast is buckling up its shoes with the stringent measures against the terror of Corona, which the whole world is facing as of now. Fortunately, Northeast have been overcoming the situation with people cooperating with the disciplinary actions implemented by the Government officials. At this mode, Eastern Panorama Editor Harsh Jhunjhunwala came across Shri H.B. Marak, IAS Deputy Commissioner, South Garo Hills, Baghmara.The South Garo Hills district lies in the southern part of the state of Meghalaya, with its headquarter at Baghmara, the only town in the district. Situated in such difficult terrain, Shri HB Marak, gave his excerpts on how this region is ready to cope up with the pandemic if crisis arises besides foretelling the development of the remote areas along with the encouragement to the tourism sector.

 1. With the remoteness of the location... what are the challenges that your district is facing?

The remoteness of the location can be considered as a blessing or a bane. It has its own advantages as well. Most of the places still have their pristine beauty and charm because not many people had access to them because of the remoteness of the place and also as the access is difficult because of poor roads, very few had ventured to such places. Had the roads been very good there would have been many visitors and I am sure the beauty of the place would have been disturbed to a certain extent.

            There are many unexplored places in the district which are true natural assets. Several caves, waterfalls, lovely natural stone formation which resemble palace walls which the locals called Goera Rongat (the file of stones made by Goera, the god of thunder) are worth seeing. As the approaches to these places are rugged and uneven only those who are adventurers now venture to those places. The road condition is really a challenge, so is the network connectivity and power supply. There are few infrastructures worth the name. The absence of good higher educational institutions and health infrastructures needs attention. The long international border with Bangladesh can also be a blessing if properly exploited to reap its advantages like establishment of proper infrastructure for trade and commerce. If such needs are met, the district will be the most frequented place in the state because of its natural beauty.

2. Sir your team has been stationed since the start of the pandemic and has no stone unturned in protecting the people. Do you think there is a chance of burn out which may lead to complacency?

The Staff and Officers of the District have been working day and night to contain the spread of the disease Covid-19 with limited resources it has been provided. All have been dedicated in their works and yes with limited manpower every Officers and Staff are engaged in the job face exhaustion. I do not see any complacency will arise as all are very conscious in their work.

3. How well are we prepared to fight the virus?

The District has made its own arrangements for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Medical Officers, Nurses and Staff of Medical Department have been trained on various protocols to deal with the disease. Personal Protective Equipments, masks, gloves and hand sanitizers have been provided to them. The Baghmara Civil Hospital has prepared 5 beds to treat category C and D patients who are hospitalized. Only one ventilator has been provided to the hospital as there is no Anaesthesiologist in the Hospital. Corona Care Centre at present with 13 beds has been set up for those tested positive of Covid-19 with mild symptoms. Oxygen cylinders are also available in that Centre, if required the number of beds can be increased upto 50. We have posted personnel for screening at four entry points in the District, where the incoming vehicles and passengers are screened with the vehicles being disinfected.

            We have provided locally made Sample collection booths to the Medical Officers using which they can be protected. Also we have made face shields and distributed to the Police force and those who are disinfecting vehicles. Masks have also been distributed to the Staff and Officers and people. Covid-19 Management Committees at the District, Block and Village levels have been formed for management of the disease.

4. Does the proximity with the borders have any say on our preparation?

There is always an apprehension of illegal entries from the neighbouring country whose citizens have also been infected. Even before the start of Covid-19, we have imposed section 144 Crpc prohibiting movement of people within 500 metres from the International border from 6pm to 6am. Now the Government of India has completely sealed the International border so there is less danger of illegal infiltration now.

5. Sir, is it the time to think local as the idea of a global village is dormant till the time the vaccine is developed?

Harsh Jhunjhunwala


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