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Sikkim: State records 0 corona positive cases so far, here’s why

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May 13th

At a time, when India along with the world is gripped with the coronavirus crisis, Sikkim has remained Corona free. The state so far has recorded 0 home cases and is leading the country in terms of pandemic management.

On 17 March, when the Government of India issued an advisory, urging to all Indian states to take social distancing measures as a preventive strategy for implementation till 31 March. Sikkim was ahead in terms of preparations then. The state on that day had announced that entry to the state would be prohibited among other measures.

Speaking to Inside Northeast, Bikash Basnet Confidential Secretary to CM, says, “Our government had already taken an early decision for closing the borders to International Tourists in early March 2020 and mid-march for domestic tourists. The people of Sikkim were also discouraged to travel outbound which accounted for NIL COVID-19 cases in Sikkim to this date”.

In terms of curbing movement, “we ensured that our borders were tightly kept under surveillance to restrict illegal public movement. On the other hand, we supplied essential commodities to remote villages situated beyond our borders of the neighbouring state whose public were dependent on us. This strategy also helped in discouraging them from entering the state”.

Another big problem in the country has been the migrant crisis and the state government has managed to contain that as well. The govt has designated Nodal Officers in metropolitan cities, etc who would co-ordinate with such stranded people duly giving them relief (cash, food, and other essentials) and accommodation as required.

There are other factors such as geographical proximity, low population, and better civic sense by the people. These components have contributed to the numbers as well.

Here are some of the key actions taken by the state so far:

Feb 2020

Screening starts at all the check-posts in Sikkim.

March 05

Inner line Permit stopped for international travelers, Nathula pass visit for Domestic Tourist also stopped.

March 17

Entry of all domestic tourists to Sikkim stopped
All educational institutions suspended till 15 April
In all public places gathering stopped
All major entry points of Sikkim closed immediately for entry into Sikkim
Government banned the entry of Domestic as well as International tourists in the state.
All the Local people to refrain from visiting tourist spots to maintain Social Distancing
Quarantine facility setup at Rangpo, East Sikkim the main checkpost of the state
Companies asked to have thermal scanners at the gate of every entry unit
Online registration of all those having travel history
Daily Monitoring System of the health of each individual without any health worker visiting home
Round the clock real time monitoring of check-post

March 24

Issue of Lockdown order in compliance with the order from the Ministry of Home Affairs
Thermal Screening started in the two main checkposts of Sikkim Rangpo and Melli.
Control Rooms were set up in all four districts with adequate infrastructures.
Financial Aid is being provided from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund

March 27

Government announced relief materials including food grains and vegetables to needy families
Have been participating in all the video conferencing with Prime Minister and Central Ministers and their directives are being followed
Also conducted video conferencing with state level; and district level task force as well as medical teams
1852 students of Sikkim stranded outside the state given financial aid Rs. 5000 amounting to Rs. 92,60,000 till now
Rs. 30,000 each for 188 stranded patients amounting to Rs. 56,40,000,
Incentive of Rs.5000 each to 675 ASHA workers amounting to Rs.33, 75,000
Relief materials distributed to 1,36,400 beneficiaries.

COVID-19 one stop Portal developed

Quarantine information, Circulars, Notices, Appeals, Daily health Bulletin.
Verification of fake news. Citizen reporting mechanism.
ePass: for easy movement of those who need to move during the lockdown period.
To ease essential services availability, online listing of such services in each area based on crowd sourced data is made available to public in the portal.
All important contact numbers/helpline etc made public in the portal.
Online permission to NGO’s for relief work.

POST COVID-19 PERIOD

Online registration for stranded people along with their expected travel plan.
More technology based learning to be integrated in the education system.
Door delivery system of all Government services to the public through eServices in a phase wise manner
Adaptation of E-Office in phase wise manner for continuation of the Government work during such lockdown periods, if ever in future.
Expansion of NIC Office until Block level.
Technology based public transport system.
83 people have been brought back to Sikkim and put up in quarantine centers on 05/05/2020

AUSTERITY MEASURES

The Cabinet deliberated on various austerity measures to be taken by the State Government in order to mitigate the adverse effect of economic downturn affected by the situation created by spread of Covid-19 pandemic and following decisions were taken:

(1) 35% cut in monthly salaries of Hon’ble Chief Minister and Hon’ble Ministers, Government of Sikkim for one year.

(2) Utilization of Discretionary Fund of Hon’ble Ministers to be put on hold.

(3) Ban on appointment under regular/work-charged/muster roll/adhoc/consolidated pay/ temporary basis etc for six months.

(4) Restrictions on repairs, maintenance and payment of liabilities.

(5) Ban on replacement and purchase of new vehicles, computers and peripherals etc.

(6) Curtailment of allocation under revenue expenditure in all Departments by 10%.

(7) Restrictions on drawal of PoL by Government officers outside the State and complete ban on foreign tours.

(8) Restrictions on tour of officers and staff.

(9) Restrictions on advertisement/publication of Notice Inviting Tender except mandatory ones.

(10) Restrictions on conveyance allowance.

(11) Grant of Housing building advance to be deferred till further notice.

(12) Ban on official receptions in Hotel/resorts etc.

(13) Deferment of transfer of funds to Rural and Urban Local Bodies other than salaries and honorariums till further order.

(14) Devolution of funds under the 5th State Finance Commission to be reduced by 10% except grants recommended by the 15th Finance Commission.

(15) Non-utilization of all contingency provision in the ongoing works till further notice.

(16) No new scheme/works including land acquisition to be initiated till further order.

(17) No restriction on implementation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes where funds are made available by the Government of India.

(18) No liabilities to be created without budget provision.

(19) Allocation for the ongoing capital works except for State share to be reduced by 15%.

Further, the Government announced the following:-

1. The Taxi drivers will be provided relief.
2. The stranded students, workers and other Sikkimese citizens will be brought to Sikkim by Special Trains on Government expenditure from Delhi and Bangalore. The stranded people from North-East, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal will be brought to Sikkim by bus on Government expenditure.
3. The people who are stranded in the adjoining states/areas of Delhi and Bangalore will have to travel to Delhi and Bangalore on finalization of date by Indian Railways.

CHALLENGES

1. Poor Connectivity issues
2. Separate Telecom Circle for Sikkim state
3. BBNL (Bharat Broadband Nagam Ltd.) to be directed to expedite completion of the ongoing connectivity work up-to GPU.

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