Role of District Magistrate amidst Pandemic Situation
The article 'Role of District Magistrate amidst Pandemic Situation' makes a crucial and critical analysis over the part of the significance of local governance during the times when people were suffering.
The article 'Role of District Magistrate amidst Pandemic Situation' by Ishita Singh makes a crucial and critical analysis over the part of the significance of local governance during the times when people were suffering from the pandemic and how the local authorities were struggling to coordinate to fill the gaps that kept on arising very frequently due to the vigorous spread of the virus.
It was seen that countries all over took various strategies in order to prevent the virus from spreading COVID-19, and also it was important to pay attention to the economic stability, which was also very affected due to the increasing spread of the virus. The District Magistrates had the authority and overall responsibility to take decisions that were for the benefit of the people of their respective districts in relation to fighting the severe disease.
The role of the District Magistrate, i.e., DM, in the midst of the recent pandemic situation proved to be very multifaceted and crucial, now talking about the district and its significant role in our lives, it is considered an administrative unit in our Indian Administrative Structure and the DM is known to be the head of this significant unit.
It has been seen that during the pandemic times, the district magistrate was the concerned authority who was responsible for taking care and ensuring that all the required and necessary measures were fulfilled and taken care of for the prevention of the spread of the covid-19 virus and also providing necessary and immediate support and aid to the affected areas and population.
Significance and Role of the District Magistrate
It was also made mandatorily important that all the officers of the district level of the various departments and sections, which also comprised of the DCP’s, DC’s and other respective officers of the municipal corporations, that they all have to be regulated by the respective District Magistrate. The District Magistrate was responsible for managing and regulating the necessary guidelines and also to have an observation over the directions of the Home Affairs ministry, the management authority of the National Disaster and also to the orders that kept on reflecting from time to time. The Department of the District Magistrate also sent instructions to the Panchayats and the Panchayats also used to work in accordance with the line departments like health, police and other public works.
It was also seen that states like Rajasthan and Odisha had credible success in terms of enhancing the governance and its overall quality, also keeping in mind the social movements that promoted more stability of the responsive governance and also gave importance ace to the Rights to Information Act 2005(RTI) and it was also well institutionalized in Kerala and Odisha as they had great prior experience in dealing with disasters related to health and natural disasters like Kerala floods and the spread of the Nipah Virus so from these examples it can be assessed that the role of the district magistrates and also the respective regulatory bodies coming under were somewhere struggling to manage the spread of the deadly virus owing with the prior experience they had in difficult times like these.
Additionally, the District Magistrate also looked after the operational units of all the other industrial units of the concerned pharmaceuticals along with the full supply chain of the manufacturing tools and units related to the other important commodities, which also included the petrol pumps, LPG, edible food products, necessary groceries, milk and related products, fertilizers and seeds, storage houses and related establishments of the medicine and distribution sectors which included both private and public like laboratories, clinics and medical staffs and other services related to hospitals services.
It was also reported that there were 24x7 control rooms that were set up to have a complete observation over the functional units, and also, Shelter houses and relief camps were set up in order to safeguard people and officers for the same were appointed for its monitoring.
Abandoned migrants were also sent to their home states, and this was done by initiating the running of special trains like, for example, the Shramik express of Konkan Railways, which carried 1222 abandoned workers and migrants from the State of Madhya Pradesh to Gwalior, all these arrangements were made in guidance and help of the district magistrates in relation with the State Government Authorities.
In certain states, it was the duty of the District Magistrates to look after and check the updates coming from the border in coordination with the entry and exit points of the states to inspect that the state is free from any unnecessary danger. They also had to look after the assigned in charge of the quarantine centres of their respective jurisdictions.
Also, in some States like Rajasthan, it was seen that the district magistrate had to look after the essential services of social welfare and its coordination with the other line departments, which required overall monitoring and keen observation from time to time. It was also under the responsibility of the DM to look after with special attention after women and children, civil and water supplies in order to maintain the inter-departmental linkages and general awareness and maintenance of law and order.
These below mentioned are the key responsibilities that the district magistrate was required to fulfil as part of his duty-
- Coordination – Coming to this responsibility, the District Magistrate has to look after the various government agencies and various departments related to health and care-related stakeholders in order to safeguard coordinated activities in the midst of the pandemic.
- Management of the policies governed by the government- Now, talking about the policies, the District Magistrate was the concerned authority for taking care of the implementation and regulation of the various policies that were regulated by the government related to the crucial situation going around in the district.
- The allocation of the resources –Coming to the allocation of various significant resources by the District Magistrate played a very important role, for example, the various medical aid equipment and tools and the supply of the various important supplies for running households around the district to maintain equal distribution.
- Taking care of the surveillance system- This was a very important responsibility of the District Magistrate, which was to regulate the surveillance system with due care and observation, to have a proper track record of the spread of the disease, and after having the proper analysis then taking forward many steps for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in around the district.
- Regulation of the emergency responses- Now, during this outbreak and when people were struggling to save their lives and families, it was the main concern of the district magistrate to take care of the regulation of the emergency responses around the various areas of the district also including the releasing and evacuation of the people in around the affected areas and also setting the arrangements for the various facilities relating to the quarantine measures.
- Communication with regards to the public- This was considered to be one of the most helpful regards and roles of the district magistrate as it was very important to build communication with regard to the public to ensure awareness in relation to the spread of the virus, various related symptoms and other regulatory preventive measures.
- Observation and monitoring- Coming to one of the most difficult and significant responsibilities of the District regulator was to monitor the various affected areas and take care of the implementation of the medical facilities and also look into the preventive measures for the prevention of the deadly virus.
From all these points, we can make out that the role played by the Magistrates of the District was very immediately regulated and crucial with regard to safeguarding the public at large and also to look after the regulation of the preventive measures and taking care and providing support with the population of different areas which was affected in hard times.
However, it must be taken into note that all these factors played by the District Magistrate and its regulation depend on the tools that were available over the hands of the magistrate and also in regard to the other resources that were given for necessary use during times of immediate need and support and also significantly over the cooperation of the other stakeholders.
Under such unexpected conditions, it was necessary on the part of the local governance to significantly look into bridging the gaps between the local necessities and the various policies and measures for the working and coordination of the networks and responses in the times of COVID and to look after the various events and its outcomes also to develop and to keep ready the other alternative measures.
It was seen that the management done by the magistrate of the district and related officials was much more effective as they were more connected and in touch with the public at large and they were somewhere able to navigate the various conditions and related problems of the public and societies, as it was very necessary to keep resolving the various challenges and tasks that keep coming in front the working desk since the pandemic started.
It is very well known that India imposed the very necessary nationwide lockdown, which is known to be one of the toughest in around the nation on the 24th march 2020 which came after a concern raised by the World Health Organization (WHO), which was reflected after a few hours notice and was implemented as soon as it was made possible for the benefit of the public at large, There was a huge number of the people seen migrating and coming to their home places and also from the urban to rural areas which were causing a decline in the employment rates and causing disruption to the services of the social nature.
All this caused sudden distress and shock to the public around the country and with this, the practice of social distancing was made applicable to be followed along with various restrictions on the movement of masses and people in order to prevent the spread of the infection.
Significantly, the right to health is not specifically mentioned in our Indian Constitution like we have the right to education. Still, references can be given to various notable judgments like Consumer Education and Resource Centre v. Union of India, 1995 AIR 922, and Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Sanity v. State of West Bengal, 1996 SCC (4) 37 incorporated the right to health as an important part of Article 21 of our Indian Constitution which signified the right to life and also indicated that the Indian government has a significant constitutional obligation and responsibility to provide good health facilities to all respective citizens of our country.
Due to the order of the lockdown, it was the duty of the district magistrate to manage the preventive measures strictly in order to control the spread of disease as it will directly impact the citizens also, it was important to see that the fundamental rights of the citizens are not infringed.
The Nationwide lockdown was regulated and governed by the Disaster and Management Act 2005, under which the situation of the covid-19 was declared to be a notified natural disaster, and this was made effective from the management perspective with regard to national to the local level, as the matter of fact and importance the state is divided into various districts which were considered to be the nodal units with regards to the administrative purposes. This act had 79 sections and was important to give consideration during the coronavirus.
It should be very well understood that the district magistrate is an official body which is considered to be important for maintaining law and order in the concerned district also, during the coronavirus times, when the deadly virus was infecting all the citizens at large, it was equally important to manage the cases of crime being the head of the criminal administration and also to give directives to the related Executive magistrates and to have complete observation over the actions of the police in the district.
Being a very important official body, these magistrates were very well responsible for the enforcement and observation of the containment zones and related regulations keeping in note the desired prohibitory regulations issued under Section 144 of Crpc and also equally giving importance to the orders issued by the State Government and the District Magistrates.
The sector magistrates needed to work in accordance with the directions of the District Magistrates. It was significant to look in accordance with the District Disaster Management Authority, which played a very critical role in order to restrict the movement of the people. Also, it was important to look after the movement of the vehicles around the district.
It was observed that the entire process of moving forward with safety and intelligence was very challenging and required a lot of patience and strength because of the dynamic behaviour of the Covid-19 virus and it was a huge task over the hands of the District Magistrates and other state official coming under their authority to have a crucial implementation over the state directives. The DM is considered to work in a position in which it has to give orders in order to allocate several line departments and related local institutions, and also, they were required to give special focus to the sealing of the various district borders.
And this is the reason why it was stated firmly that the success and failure of these regulations and the required steps that were to be taken on the part of DM as most important duties and responsibilities solely depended on the vision and discretion of the District Magistrate.
No doubt, the coronavirus has been considered a global medical emergency and needed very critical and immediate action by Government officials in order to significantly control the number of human losses. Therefore, apart from the medical point of view, it was very well important to look at it with keeping in mind the legal provisions in order to enhance the controlling and management of the deadly severe virus and all this was required to be done keeping in the mind that law and order are not infringed as it is one of the key roles played the District Magistrate midst the COVID -19 pandemic.
Thus it can be concluded that the role of district magistrate is a power that comes with lots of responsibilities and which are needed to be fulfilled from time to time as it is for the betterment of our country and significantly important for the running of our economy because the maintenance of peace is very important to maintain law and order in the country.
 The Constitution of India
 Disaster and Management Act 2005
 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973