Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Around 70 lakh members of six lakh Mission Shakti Self Help Groups (SHG) are shouldering vital responsibilities across Odisha to fight coronavirus pandemic in the State.

Their role has been acknowledged by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who expressed his gratitude for their support during this critical time.

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"I am heartened by the all-round response of women especially members of Mission Shakti Self Help Groups (SHGs) during this critical time, Patnaik said recently.

The women are devoting their time in generating awareness, supplying essential commodities to families, cooking meals for poor, and even making 50,000 masks every day, he said.

The Mission Shakti programme was started by Patnaik in 2001, a year after he assumed power in Odisha.

It has always played a vital role during any disaster or emergency situation, and has now become a movement in the state, the chief minister said.

The members work in rural and urban areas and once again the Mission Shakti members have risen to the occasion providing a vital link between the government and the community as leaders, partners in service delivery at the grass root level, said Sujata R Karthikeyan, the director of Mission Shakti.

From early March, the SHGs were assigned the responsibility of creating awareness on COVID-19 at the community level. They circulated pamphlets, mostly targeting women in rural and urban areas.

The Women Self Help Group (WSHG) members mostly concentrated on women those who have little knowledge on hygiene and sanitation, the official said.

They carried the chief ministers pledge of Stay Home, Stay Safe' at the doorsteps of people, who do not have access to newspapers and television channels.

The women also made the rural people understand in simple language that it is not impossible to defeat coronavirus if they stay home and break the transmission chain, Karthikeyan said.

Seeing the public demand for masks, nearly 400 SHGs are making 50,000 masks every day, the official said.

Our SHGs have sold nearly 6 lakh masks so far to agencies, institutions banks, police, village health workers.

They are sold at a reasonable rate of Rs 15-20 per piece. Many SHGs have also taken this up as a philanthropic activity and distributed masks free of cost to those in need, Karthikeyan pointed out.

When the lockdown was announced and it was seen that supply of rations and vegetables may become an issue, the WSHG members stepped in to fill the gap.

Nearly 500 SHGs have set up dry ration, vegetables and fruit shops across the state with the help of the district administration, she said.

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The WSHG members are also carrying out home delivery services for providing ration in many urban centres like Berhampur, Cuttack, Kendrapara and Koraput.

Meanwhile, the chief minister has entrusted the responsibility of managing free kitchens in every Gram Panchayat to the WSHGs.

This is not all. Some WSHGs and federations have voluntarily contributed from their group savings to the Chief Ministers Relief fund for the coronavirus pandemic.