Rain or sunshine, the little hamlet of Thaneermukkam will see people using umbrellas. It may have come handy as a weapon of self-defence, and this time too it has attained a different level of self-defence, a defence against Covid-19, a mode for social distancing.
With Kerala all set for the monsoon, the Thaneermukkam panchayat is readying to distribute around 6,000 umbrellas across its 23 wards initially, according to panchayat president PS Jyothis. There is a motto behind it: ‘Open Your Umbrella, Come Rain, Shine or Pandemic,’ she says. Finally, there would be 10,000 umbrellas in this hamlet which has around 50,000 people.
The panchayat, which is part of the tourist spot of Alappuzha and had initiated several novel methods during these pandemic times, is to make use of the women’s anti-poverty project, Kudumbashree, so that people can buy the umbrellas at a subsidised rate.
Alappuzha legislator and Finance Minister Thomas Isaac is behind this novel initiative. It involves the whole community as every person in the panchayat stepping out of the house will hold an open umbrella and this will also ensure that a minimum 1-metre distance is maintained among people.
Local Self Government Minister AC Moideen inaugurated this umbrella venture, which he said would ensure social distancing.
The civic body’s target is to reach 10,000 umbrellas. That will equal the total number of households in the tourist village with a population of close to 50,000.
During the outbreak of the pandemic, the panchayat had seen what is now termed as a `hanky revolution’ where handkerchiefs and soaps were distributed among school children when the first case of coronavirus was reported from Thrissur on January 30.
Campaigns for hygiene and staying healthy were held among the students.
Not to stop at that, the panchayat involved medical officials, experts and social activists to spread this awareness campaign through different committees. Social media platforms were used and ward-level committees of Kudumbashree workers were formed to spread the message of washing hands and maintaining social distance. This indeed tasted success to a great extent, says Jyothis who is confident of the umbrella shield.
With people locked down in houses and fears of food shortage looming large, the panchayat decided to involve people in farming and distributed 300 kits of seeds and saplings in each of the 23 wards. In the next round, the panchayat proposes to ensure that every house gets 50 vegetable plants.