Aiding Students and Fighting Floods in the Times of Covid 19
- Raghav Goyal
- Published on 10 Oct 2020, 5:34 pm IST
- 3 minutes read
In our last story on Assam’s Goalpara, we had highlighted how the gutsy IAS officer posted there, Ms Varnali Deka, handled Covid 19 with support from the community members of the district. In the concluding part, we focus on how she took on other issues, including floods, which hit Goalpara at the same time.
- Ms. Varnali Deka while working on the field during the influx of multiple disasters
Battling Covid 19 in Goalpara also entailed shutting down the students in their respective homes. This impacted their studies, and Ms Varnali Deka- the Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara- was quite aware of it. But she came up with a solution- YouTube! As she told Indian Masterminds, “due to shortage of teachers in the tribal areas, we launched a YouTube channel named “Goalpara Cares” on which small modular videos for each chapter were screened and taught in small groups. We also trained our teachers on digital pedagog with the help of content shared by UNICEF and with Piramal Foundation.”
She added, “Under Goalpara Techcare we were reaching out to people to donate their usable smartphones, laptops, and tablets so that we could increase the digital penetration among the students.”
THE DEVASTATING FLOODS
Assam being a flood prone region, the state was hit not just by Covid 19 but also by devastating floods that ravaged the crops, roads, and property of the region. Goalpara district bore the brunt of nature’s attack. Recalled Ms. Deka said, “this time, the floods also reached the areas which were not impacted by them for the past many years. However, we were ready with our plans. The state Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal had already directed all the districts to form two separate teams- to tackle the floods as well as Covid 19.”
She added, “The next thing was to ensure that if the district is damaged by the floods, where do we house our people? All our network of 1698 schools were made use of. The schools with boundary walls were made as isolation centres (for Covid patients) and the ones which were non-prone to floods were made as relief camps (for flood victims). The principals and the headmasters of the schools were trained and made the camps in-charge.”
It was a huge responsibility for Ms. Varnali Deka, which she carried out in an outstanding manner and also improved the district ranking of Goalpara. Asking her about the key takeaways from the pandemic and floods, she replied “Resilience is important during such unprecedented times and the most important thing which we did in Goalpara was the convergence of all the departments and departmental efforts. Our education, health, and social welfare departments were augmenting each other’s efforts which helped us in optimizing all our resources.”
THE COVAAS APP
The pandemic in Goalpara also sparked quite a few rumors, and to quell these Ms. Dekha again turned to technology. She recalled, “Many rumors were doing the rounds and were creating an unhealthy environment and panic among the people. The correct information was readily available with the people, but our motive was to make it more accessible in a centralized form through a mobile app itself. I thought it would counter all the rumor-mongering.
“With this idea of mine, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) developed an app that would spread the right kind of information on Covid in Assam. The app stands for Coronavirus Alert Assam (COVAAS) and has helped the residents of Assam in getting more aware of the problems and remedies related to the virus.”
The resourcefulness of Ms. Deka in successfully tackling several challenges simultaneously is something one would expect in all the civil servants of India.
END OF THE ARTICLE
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