The ‘Inside Districts’ series launched in April 2020 is a one-of-its-kind attempt to capture the experiences of district and Block-level officials, panchayat functionaries, beneficiaries, and frontline workers, on their challenges and best practices.
This interview was conducted with a Panchayat Secretary in Himachal Pradesh in Hindi on 20 May 2021, and has been translated.
Q: What arrangements have been made to vaccinate people in the 45+ and 18+ years of age categories? What difficulties are you facing?
Panchayat Secretary: The COVID-19 vaccination is happening at the Panchayat sub-centre and, along with it, a school has also been converted into a centre.
The time interval between the two doses of vaccine has been increased again, and so some people who come to get the second dose have to be turned away. It becomes very difficult to make them understand.
Vaccination of 18+ people started in Himachal Pradesh on 17 May; 55 vaccination centres have been set up in the district. The vaccination happens two days a week, and a target of vaccinating 100 people per day has been set.
A major challenge is that the registration portal opens for booking, and within 5 minutes the centres are fully booked. People who are poor or illiterate are facing trouble. They don’t know how to get their online registrations.
Q: Is the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP)* being prepared?
Panchayat Secretary: The GPDP work is partially done; it has not been approved by the Gram Sabha yet. For this, the Gram Sabha meeting was supposed to take place in April, but the District Panchayat Officer cancelled the meeting due to a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Q: Does the Panchayat have funding for COVID-19 work?
Panchayat Secretary: The Gram Panchayat does not have any funds that it can use for COVID-19 work. A couple of days ago, we received a letter from the state government, which said that Gram Panchayats will be provided with Rs. 25,000 for COVID-19 work. The District Magistrate, District Panchayat Officer, and Block Development Officer (BDO) have been directed on this.
However, till now we do not have any clarity from the BDO about the guidelines. We don’t know if we can spend the money from the 15th Finance Commission for COVID-19 work.
More experiences can be found on the dedicated Inside Districts platform.
*GPDP: GPDP is an annual, decentralised planning process at the Panchayat level. In 2015, the Fourteenth Finance Commission grants were devolved to Gram Panchayats that provided them with an opportunity to plan for their development themselves. Since then, local bodies are expected to prepare context-specific GPDPs that reflect the development issues, perceived needs, and priorities of the community, including that of the marginalised sections.