A village in the area has taken measures that include a strict ‘people’s lockdown’, which has kept it free of the Covid menace despite being at the gateway of a tourist haven
Amid worldwide panic over the Covid-19 pandemic leading to lockdowns, a unique case of self-isolation has emerged from a remote village of West Bengal.
Much poor and marginal though, villagers of Toribari village in North Bengal have been living under a self-imposed lockdown since March 22 last.
The decision to impose this lockdown might appear to be the latest in the string of similar such lockdowns by several other villages, elsewhere in India,fearing spread of COVID-19.
Even though the nation, particularly West Bengal, has witnessed umpteen number of unlocks, Toribari, barely 7 kms from Siliguri town, has not so far lifted the veil of the lock.
The result is loudly visible;
Toribari is yet to record a single case of Covid positive even though there has been a steady spike in the number of cases in its immediate neighbourhood.
The nationwide lockdown, it may be mentioned, was imposed on March 22 last to contain the spread of Covid-19.
And interestingly, the local municipal or panchayat authorities have refused to interfere with the decision of the village committee.
A bamboo gate erected at the entrance of the village, barely seven kms away from Siliguri town, prevents all outsiders from entering Toribari.
However, that isn’t enough; gatemen have been posted 24 X 7 to check if someone is violating the pandemic-induced lockdown.
What has promoted the committee to opt for this bizarre decision in a village that comprises 94 households only?
Toribari, home to a church, a temple and a monastery, is an immensely popular tourist spot for its being in close proximity to the Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary in Jalpaiguri district.
“We’ve to do something to prevent outsiders’ footfall into our territory as the poor villagers have no wherewithal to go for treatment,” explained Yuden Lepcha, the committee secretary
“Since it’s a very popular picnic spot and gateway to the sanctuary, we couldn’t have perhaps stopped people from coming here,” Lepcha told EastIndiaStory.Com.
“Naturally, the village is vulnerable; hence, it’s a kind of unanimous decision of the villagers who want to live like that at the moment.”
Does that mean villagers don’t go outside to buy essentials?
“Of course, they do go; but we’ve our own process of sanitisation and social distancing. We strictly observe this and have remained COVID-free,” he claimed.
However, there is no official confirmation as to whether
Toribari is the only Covid-19 free village in Jalpaiguri district.
According to Sudip Pradhan, vice president of the local joint forest management committee, villagers and guards often have a tough time, convincing the outsiders about the reason for the lockdown.
Village elders including women rush to the rescue of those who feel they are being outnumbered by the picnic seekers.
“We try to prevail on them, explaining why we need to continue with this practice,” Pradhan said.
The forest department officials are happy with the strong stand taken by Toribari villagers, for it has also prevented poachers’ entry into the sanctuary.
Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts have recorded 47 and 24 Covid related deaths respectively till August.
Toribari is of course, still shining by staying Covid free!
Also read: Corona: Death Of A Society
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The author has served no less than Al Jazeera and German TV, and India’s Parliamentarian magazine among others! To his credit goes a deep-rooted empathy for social issues and humans. He has wide experience in covering the northeast of India. His coverage on the 2020 Amphan cyclone in eastern India has easily been the best around the world