The graph of COVID-19 cases has been witnessing a steady rise which has affected thousands of wage earners. Keeping the grim situation in mind, IAS officer, Dr Adarsh Singh made the most of the situation and optimised the available resources to solve the problem of workers and water scarcity.
In the month of nationwide lockdown in March, the lives of many people were affected, including, but not limited to, workers. Few of them managed to return to their home whilst others were stranded. Amongst them, one 35-year-old Nathu was the fortunate ones to have travelled back home right before the lockdown.
A resident of Mavaiya village in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh, he was out of a job after his labour team in Lucknow was asked to stop working.
Meanwhile, Manoj, another daily wage earner, was stranded in the village due to lockdown and movement restriction.
As luck would have it, two months ago, they were both employed to restore a 2.6 km stretch of the Kalyani river in Mavaiya.
According to Dr Singh, Kalyani river was once the source of irrigation for farmers but the river dried up from silt accumulation. Last year, the district administration had initiated the plan to clean the river but due to lack of manpower, it was halted.
The river restoration project was covered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) and a budget of more than Rs 59 lakh was sanctioned for it in phase 1.
The project is divided into segments – a 2.6 km stretch in Mavaiya, which has been restored, and the other 1.5 kilometres in a neighbouring village, Haidargarh, where work is ongoing.
Likewise, close to 800 villagers who had lost their jobs or whose livelihoods had been affected due to the global pandemic, were employed under this river project, making this project a special one and separates it from the rest of the project as it came as a ray of hope for several villagers who were struggling and at the same time, the river’s rejuvenation would ultimately benefit them only.
Measures such as sensitising villagers, eliminating encroachments, reducing garbage dumping, and open defecation on the river bank were adopted to achieve this feat. Registration of workers in Mavaiya cleanup and Haidargarh was done and the workers were instructed about the process.
The next step was to remove encroachments that were in close quarters with the river. Police and the Revenue department stepped in to make the task easier.
The district authorities also sensitised people about open defecation and dumping garbage in the river for which people corporated with full interest.
The daily wage earners removed the silt, dug the river 1.5-metre deep, and widened it by 25 metres to capture and store rainwater. They also repaired the catchment area.
It took nearly 60 days to desilt the stretch in Mavaiya. The work in Haidargarh is nearing completion, and as per officials, it should be done by 30 June.
Since the first phase of the project was successful, department officials are planning to expand it to other villages as the Kalyani river is 170-kilometres long. With enough manpower, skills, and knowledge on how to go about it, the model will be replicated in other villages post-monsoon.
India has been under the lockdown for nearly three months and thousands of lives have been uprooted due to loss of jobs.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 cases are on a steady rise, posing uncertainty for the future. So, the best thing is to make the most of the situation and optimise the available resources. Officers like Singh make for an inspiring example.