Covid-19: Village chiefs in Haryana persuade villagers to abandon hookah sessions

CHANDIGARH: Hookah smoking sessions, a common thing in Haryana villages, have now taken a break as village chiefs have convinced locals not to share pipes to contain the spread.

By playing their role in spreading awareness about the coronavirus in the interior, village chiefs or sarpanch also ensure that farmers follow the rules of social distancing during the harvest season.

Smoking hookah is part of our culture as villagers, especially the elderly meet in a common place in town to socialize and share the hookah. Initially, it was a bit difficult to get them to understand, but we prevailed over them and soon everyone realized that it can be dangerous in view of the coronavirus and now no one can be found smoking hookah outside, said Hoshiar Chand, sarpanch from Sirsa.

Sarpanch de Pabra in Hisar district, Rajesh Dhillon, said that hookah and playing cards are quite common in villages and also in large groups.

When we told villagers that such things may backfire on the government's efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, they abandoned it in a few days, Dhillon said.

Haryana has so far reported 183 cases of coronavirus. Most of the cases have been reported in four districts of Nuh, Palwal, Gurugram and Faridabad.

Sarpanch, or village chief in Sirsa district, Atma Ram, said he strives to even go door-to-door to make sure everyone complies with government directives related to the closure.

With the harvest season currently underway, he has made one point clear to farmers: ensuring social distance while working in the fields.

The government will begin acquiring mustard from April 15 and wheat from April 20. The acquisition has been delayed this time in light of the Covid-19 outbreak and blockade that has been applied to control its spread. The government continues to emphasize the importance of social distancing and everyone, including farmers, has been told that this is the key if we have to keep everyone safe, Ram told PTI. While Handi Khera Sarpanch Atma Ram said her village has a population of almost 2,200, Nazadela Kalan and Pabra are large villages with populations of more than 9,000 and 10,000, respectively.

Sarpanches said they regularly share information, updates and government directives related to the coronavirus and confinement with villagers.

The village chiefs said that since wearing turbans and wearing a cotton wrap around the neck was part of the village culture, everyone has already gotten used to covering their faces using them as masks.

In several villages, locals are enforcing Thikri Pehra, whereby some villagers, especially young people, form teams to protect the village boundaries to ensure that no outsiders, except those providing essential services or government officials enter the village during the closure period, a measure taken in view of the spread of the coronavirus.

Hoshiar Chand said stores that sell essential items open in his town between 10 am and 2 pm each day and makes sure that villagers maintain social distance.

Sarpanches said they coordinate with district administration to ensure villages are disinfected.