Kerala will raise a two lakh strong social volunteering force to support the government in Covid-19 prevention and relief measures, the state's chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Thursday.
The state has also offered free prepaid recharge to those under observation so that they stay connected with the outside world, and extended the already announced free rice scheme under public distribution system for those without ration cards too. In another sign of its granular attention to details, the state has also decided to distribute dresses for newborns through medical stores, as textile showrooms are shut.
On Wednesday, Kerala had announced a food-on-call system for quarantined people who are unable to step out of their houses or cook food. The new volunteer force will be taking the food to quarantined people, the CM said, with adequate safety precautions.
Their registration will begin online, and the state has already readied a web portal for this, he added. Already, the state's youth commission raised 1,465 volunteers within the last 24 hours to act as bystanders for those under observation in hospitals, he said.
"We will create 2,36,000 people strong volunteer force, consisting of people aged between 22 and 40. All 941 panchayats will have 200 volunteers each, 87 municipalities will have 500 volunteers and six corporations will have 750 volunteers," Pinarayi Vijayan said. They will be given identification badges and their travel expenses will be borne by local government institutions, he added.
On the mobile recharge scheme, he said: "For those in quarantine, connect with the outside world is important. Right now, it is happening through mobile phones. The state will ensure their mobile phones are properly recharged."
On the extension of the free rice scheme, he said: "Those staying in rented houses were having trouble getting free rations through the public distribution system. So by taking their Aadhar card, they will be given free ration," Vijayan said.
The CM said that he held an audio conference with some of the biggest wholesale traders on Thursday in order to ensure food availability. A similar meet was held with retail sellers a day ago. "Initial confusions have been sorted out. We will stock essentials, giving traders a decent price," he said.
An overnight after it was announced, Kerala has begun the food-on-call scheme in some parts. The state has formed 15,344 ward level committees for the scheme and set up helplines in 715 panchayats, the CM said. Kerala's private hotels have donated 800 kitchens for the scheme, apart from similar donations from catering organisations, he added.
After reports of discrimination against migrant workers in parts of the state, the CM said strict action will take in such cases. "There are some reports of migrant being workers ousted from their hostels. They should be given food and shelter, not ousted. Have asked district collectors to resolve such complaints immediately, will ensure it is resolved at a state level too," he said.
Kerala will also tap 1,640 doctors, retired after 2018, for the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, said the CM. Each district has also made a list of people above the age of 60, and they will be given extra care, he said.
Vijayan said that in appreciation of Kerala's proactive measures to contain the spread and relief works started, Union minister Sadananda Gowda phoned him on Thursday, as directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kerala on Thursday confirmed 19 more COVID-19 patients, taking the total number of active cases in the state to 126, the highest in India. Maharashtra comes close second with 124 active cases reported until Thursday evening. As per official estimates, over 1.02 lakh people are under observation in Kerala and a total of 12 people have fully recovered so far.