The COVID-19 outbreak has been seeing a decline in its daily new cases in Maharashtra. However, Maharashtra has been one of the worst-hit states by the virus. And as a part of its effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in rural areas in the state, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, on 2nd June, announced a “Covid-free Village Contest”, and it was declared to make the villages of Maharashtra Covid-free. Earlier, the CM has declared the extension of lockdown in Maharashtra from June 1 till June 15, saying the coronavirus cases in Maharashtra remained high despite the decreasing numbers of new cases in the state.

On June 3rd, the state of Maharashtra registered 15,169 fresh COVID-19 cases and 285 more fatalities, taking the tally to 57,76,184 and the fatality toll to 96,751. Around 29,270 patients were also discharged during the day. While the urban regions in Maharashtra have enough facilities, it is the rural parts that lack somewhere in this matter. To encourage the villages to follow COVID-19 norms and participate in the contest, the prizes will also be given to 3 villages who are found doing some progressing work in managing COVID-19 from each of the six revenue divisions. In all, there will be a total of 18 villages and Rs. 5.4 crore has been budgeted for this initiative.

According to the Rural Development Minister Hasan Mushrif, in this contest, the first prize will be of Rs. 50 lakh, second Rs. 25 Lakh and third Rs. 15 lakhs. The front-runner of this contest will likewise get an added amount equal to the prize money as a praise, and it will be utilised for development purpose in those villages. The participating villages will be judged on 22 different criteria and a committee will also be made to judge the participating villages.

Villagers from a Covid-free Ghatne village in Maharashtra 

This big announcement of a competition with some monetary rewards was made to cheer a sense of competitiveness to accomplish the target of Covid-free villages in Maharashtra. If rightly followed, it will automatically limit the spread of the coronavirus in the villages that are participating in this contest. Earlier, several parts of the state, specifically in rural areas, continued to see increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. There was a tightening of restrictions in most of the rural areas, while the places where the positivity rate had dropped below 10%, saw some sort of relaxations as well.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackrey has said that citizens of Maharashtra could not manage to drop their guard despite a decrease in the COVID-19 cases in the state. The CM also said that despite the decreasing number of cases and a 92% recovery rate, the reported cases on May 26 were 24,752 and on September 17 last year, the state had reported 24,896, which was the highest single-day number in Maharashtra. And after the second wave, the government was similarly preparing for the upcoming events to be careful.

Recently, the Maharashtra government has also fixed the cost of COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals in the state, ensuring that the rates remain lower in the rural parts. The government has also classified areas into 3 groups, and the third category, where the prices are the lowest, excludes all the urban centres and district headquarters, to increase the attention towards rural areas.

According to a report by ANI, CM Uddhav Thackrey and Minister Hasan Mushrif had also appreciated the remarkable work of some Gram Panchayats and villages, about following all the COVID-19 rules and regulations in the recent past. These villages include Hiware Bazar, Bhosi in Nanded district, Antroli and Ghatane villages from Solapur district in western Maharashtra. And the incredible success of these villages has encouraged the Maharashtra government to inspire the villages across the state to imitate efforts by these villages. While the government is appreciating the efforts of the Covid-free villages, it is also expecting other villages to follow the same to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in rural areas.