The residents of Meghalaya's capital, Shillong, have been running community-driven quarantine centres to ensure that those returning from other states receive a homely treatment. Local governing bodies, traditional village institutions and tribal headmen are running these facilities to check the spread of coronavirus.
Meghalaya has suffered a sudden spike in the coronavirus numbers since migrant workers- stranded in other states for weeks due to the coronavirus lockdown- started returning. In May, it had only 15 cases related to a family of a doctor, who died of the disease. Now the state has more than double the number.
Meghalaya has a multi-layer governance structure. The state government looks after the overall affairs of the state, which is under the sixth schedule of the Constitution. There are autonomous district councils which have their own elected members. Traditional institutions and tribal headmen are very active at the grass-root level; they are playing a key role in the state's fight against the virus.
"Since time immemorial, even before the British rule, the Dorbar Shnong and the traditional governance bodies have been active. The great thing with these traditional institutions and systems is that they bring in manpower, like bringing volunteers," said RL Blah, General Secretary of Synjuk Ki Nongsynshar Shnong Ka Bri Hynniewtrep (SKNSKBH), a top body of traditional chiefs.
The local traditional governing bodies and tribal heads like the Dorbar Shnong in Khasi and Jaintia hills and Nokmas in Garo hills have got the community together to run the quarantine centres. As of now there are 645 active community quarantine centres in the state - the smaller ones have five to ten isolation beds, others have 30 beds.
The traditional bodies have mobilised a 24,000-strong volunteer force to fight the disease. The state government and autonomous councils help them with logistics.
"They have been running these quarantine centres on their own, they maintain them with their own money…This model has turned out to be very successful in Meghalaya as the community has come together in this participative governance. We want to take it further," Meghalaya minister James Sangma said.