State, corporates join hands to fight Covid in villages

At a time when it was debated that villages in large numbers were neglected during the second wave of coronavirus, a campaign was launched by Village Social Transformation Foundation (VSTF) - a joint initiative between the state government and corporates.

In the first phase, the VSTF under its Mission Mahagram initiative has been successful in making 204 villages Covid-19 free. This achievement has been made from the total 441 village panchayats where the VSTF has its presence.

Launched in 2017 by the then BJP-led government, the VSTF — a joint venture between the state government and the top 17 corporate houses to make 1,000 villages drought free — has completed its first phase and is waiting for the launch of second phase.

Headed by the Chief Minister, VSTF is now under Rural Development Department. During the regime of the previous government its control was with the Chief Minister’s Office. At the time of its launch, it was founded on the concept of convergence of government schemes worth Rs 1106 Cr and Rs 53 Cr by the corporate houses through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Mission Mahagram – a Covid-19 response initiative for rural Maharashtra — has been specially undertaken by the VSTF to reach out to villages. When asked about it, Rajaram Dighe, CEO of VSTF said, “It began with the survey of 2555 individuals that comprised village panchayat members, teachers and self-help group members”.

An awareness campaign was launched through digital programmes in which 3.4 lakh people were contacted by creating awareness on early diagnosis and referral, self-hygiene practices, social distancing and respiratory etiquettes, he said.

Further, VSTF took initiative in dissemination of Covid related information to 70,000 individuals through workshops on community preparedness against Covid and celebration of international days such as the water day, toilet day and hand wash day. Besides that, a drive for distribution of masks, sanitizers in 862 villages has been completed. VSTF also took efforts for distribution of food, village sanitization, and management of the public distribution system during the pandemic period.

“For the second phase, the VSTF is now expecting donations from corporates in kind, funds to VSTF and donations to CM relief fund and disaster management fund”, Dighe said. For the benefit of villagers, we wanted to focus on supply of essential medical equipment, behavioural change communication and vaccination drives.

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