Amid the round the clock fight against COVID, Jorhat district administration has not lost sight about creating employment opportunities for all those who have lost jobs or have returned home during the lockdown. Speaking exclusively to The Sentinel Assam, Deputy Commissioner of Jorhat, Roshni Aparanji Korati shared her administration's plans going forward and also spoke about the masterplan that they are working on for Jorhat 50 years later. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Sentinel Assam: How has the fight against COVID been so far?
Roshni A Korati: This is an unprecedented situation. For everybody it is new, we have only heard of a pandemic but now we are through a pandemic. We do not have a precedence for this. So that is where the team matters a lot, guidance matters a lot, funds and manpower resources mean a lot. Managing everything was definitely a challenge especially in the beginning, because Jorhat was selected as the zonal screening centre, so we had to keep all people who are coming from 6 districts — Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Jorhat, Sibsagar and Majuli were in quarantine in Jorhat till the test results came.
Within a very short time, we had to set up capacities for thousands of beds. The second important part of it was motivating the team to work in those quarantine centres because there was a lot of reluctance. And the hardest part was hiring the cleaners because everybody was reluctant. Even if they volunteered to work in quarantine centres, the villagers would boycott them. They say if you are working there, then don't come to the village. Thankfully my team is very good at Jorhat, we could handle literally thousands of people in quarantine. Initially, most of the cases were asymptomatic, it was not much of an issue. But now symptomatic patients, critical patients are coming and that is where is the actual challenge.
Sentinel Assam: We did hear about few allegations of medical negligence at JMCH.
Roshni A Korati: Initially, there were some issues because doctors, nurses other paramedics wear PPE kits and patients and their attendants are not able to make out who is who. The general perception is of seeing doctors in white coats. So after the initial incidents we got name stickers done for all medical staff so that people know who is who and doing what. Earlier patients were thinking that no doctor came to see us because they could not recognise anyone. Everyone was wearing PPE kits. Now everybody has a name sticker — doctor, nurse, ward boy, lab-technician. I should actually salute them because being in PPE kits and that too in this heat for long hours and going around attending to the patients is a lot. After that there were complaints about food. That too we took care of. Now it is going on smoothly. Recently there was another incident where a patient unfortunately died. A patient from Golaghat had been admitted, one day prior to the incident. He was brought in to JMCH in a critical condition, ICU bed was not immediately available. He was shifted to ICU as soon as a bed was vacant but that very day unfortunately, he expired. When the doctor went to explain to the attendees, they got agitated and assaulted the doctor. Immediately the requisite action was taken. The doctors were also very upset, now they are demoralized they think that they are working day and night especially this doctor Deepjyoti Saikia. He is very dedicated person, so when he was assaulted the rest of the doctors, they felt very demoralized. Motivating the medical fraternity of JMCH was also another aspect of it but now the matter has been resolved, the patient's attendants also apologized that it shouldn't have happened.
Our doctors and medical staff are working very hard. I would like to request people to follow the COVID protocols so that they don't end up becoming positive.
Sentinel Assam: How are you keeping your team motivated?
Roshni A Korati: When the team is good, you enjoy working together. Because in situations like this your team becomes your family. We spend a lot of time together. My team here is so good, I actually don't feel the pressure. We have fun working together. The professional bond has been so strong that we are willing to sacrifice for the other person in the team. It has been so hectic. We have been working 24×7. Earlier, I would have hesitated to call someone from my office at 1am, or they would have hesitated to call me at 3 am. But now we don't hesitate, we know that this is our job and we have to do it and we know the person on the other end of the phone will do it for you. We have taken it up as a challenge and ultimately the satisfaction that we get out of it is incomparable. We suddenly get a call that a kid needs plasma. And we all get on to searching for a donor. Ultimately when we get the news that the plasma has been administered to the patient and is doing fine, the satisfaction of it, that is very good, and when people say that my mother got admitted in JMCH with an oxygen saturation of 45, but now she is back home, it feels really good, I shall admit that the job satisfaction that the present situation is giving is tremendous. It definitely is keeping team morality high. Of course, we have instances where we have lost patience, but it is part of the situation, we cannot save everybody and so we keep motivating each other. Deaths are unfortunate but we have to move forward and save others.
Sentinel Assam: What about the employment opportunities and livelihood options of rural people of Jorhat post the lockdown?
Roshni A Korati: The lockdown was very difficult for the public in general and especially for the businesses. Apart from essential commodities like rice, daal (pilses), rest of the businesses were all down. We have large production of vegetables. We roped in the unemployed youth and made them do the home deliveries. We also had the SHGs and women entrepreneurs joining in. The middlemen were removed and the farmers also benefited from this as it was a direct selling model. For most of the migrant workers who had come back, we had distributed the forms while they were in the quarantine centres. So now we know who has what skill set and we are giving them employment as and where they fit best or we are re-skilling them to help them pick up jobs. Earlier these workers used to send money home from Bangalore, Hyderabad or wherever they were working. Now that income is lost but the family needs to survive, so we also had a column in the form if they have any land in the village so that we can provide them vegetable seeds or link them up with dairy entrepreneurs or train them for any such livelihood opportunity. We now have a database of people looking for work, people willing to become entrepreneurs on their own and we would be helping them accordingly. We also had to coordinate with district administrations of Nagaland because our boys were transporting commodities to nearby districts of Nagaland and were earning a living. During the lockdown we faced this problem when inter-state borders were sealed. Lot of supplies go from here to different districts of Nagaland.
We also made a database of daily wage earners in the urban areas like rickshaw pullers, construction workers who went out of work abruptly due to the lockdown. These people do not have buffer to feed on. If they don't work today, they have to go on an empty stomach tomorrow. We got in touch with NGOs and luckily Jorhat people have a large heart. They very willingly came forward to help.
Sentinel Assam: What are the plans for Durga Puja celebrations amid COVID? What are the dos and donts?
Roshni A Korati: We had a meeting with all committees. The main Maa Durga idol should not be more than 5 feet including the crown. And proportionately the other Gods and Goddesses should be in size. We won't be allowing any procession. All of them had agreed to this. So, this time it will be more of a spiritual and religious event rather than, generally Durga Puja is more of a social and cultural event. They had accepted our request. Even in the ghat, our people will take over the idol and we will immerse, our team will immerse so that they won't get into the water because once there are 10 people in the water there might be a spread of infection. They had all accepted our request. Ganesh Puja was also very peacefully over. They all did ghat puja, that way it was peaceful and I think Durga Puja also should not be a problem.
Sentinel Assam: What is your vision and plan for Jorhat?
Roshni A Korati: Jorhat is a very aware city, citizens are quite aware. It is called the knowledge capital of Assam. We have good number of institutions here. From now onwards we would like to focus on the self-sustenance part so that we are prepared for whatever comes our way. For example, entrepreneurship, bringing in more skills into the system, more innovation into the systems, so we are in regular touch with NIT. We are all working together. We started a programme called 'Ghore Ghore Aangan Wadi", where Assam Agricultural University's dean Dr Ruplekha Bora prepared the curriculum for us.
So, like this, we are taking help from all the intellectuals, scientists even the general public of Jorhat. We also had a scheme called "Ghore Ghore Lou Jika Bhol" that is for promoting kitchen garden. For this "Ghore Ghore Lou, Jika, Bohol' agri-entrepreneur have come forward. So, they have pulled in some community land and started cultivating. I am not worried about Jorhat district because it has a very rich history and people are very forward-looking and all the institution, here they pitch in to help the administration. We are all like a large family. We are making a master plan that will talk about which side will Jorhat expand, east or west, what about the infrastructure which needs to be in place, say 50 years from now.
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