It’s a village of a little over 300 and about 60 are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. But every time Dr Bhuneshwar Warma has to leave for Chameli in Chhattisgarh, he knows the government vehicles can only go so far.
“There’s about 5km of hills to be trekked. Older people who can walk can come to us. But we have to go to those who can’t,” said Warma, posted at Palnar, about 35km from Dantewada. “The government has given us buses. Where buses can’t go, we have a small Tata Magic. Where that can’t go, we walk — trekking mountains, wading through rivers, with our vaccine cold storage equipment.”
The vaccination drive each day is from 9am to 5pm. But health workers have to be out at sunrise to be able to reach the remote areas. And as long as there are people in queue, they don’t shut down for the day.
The vaccination drive in the Maoist belts of Chhattisgarh is a challenge for many reasons. The lines between “state” and “Maoist” villages are clearly drawn. The shadow of violence looms over every day and the terrain is difficult, awareness low and some areas are just not on the grid.
“In Naxal areas, 70-80% are not going to primary health centres for Covid-19 vaccination. Even for routine immunisation of children, they never go. It is only if we go into the interior areas that vaccination coverage is possible,” said a government doctor in a ‘Red district.’
The Centre’s notification says Chhattisgarh has 14 districts where Maoists are active, half of the state’s 28 districts. Of the 33 lakh vaccine doses administered in the state, about 12.6 lakh have been given in the Red belt. Because these areas have been cut off, awareness has been low.
“A lot of people think they don’t need vaccines. They say had it been such a dangerous epidemic, village after village would have been wiped out,” said Dr Dorpa Orchha, a government doctor and the first from the indigenous Abujhmadia community.

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