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A Bureaucrat Recounts How Humanity Survived Amidst Covid Horrors

2009-batch IAS officer Tarun Pithode found himself in the centre of a massive Covid twister in Bhopal during the first wave.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Soon after emerging as one of the toppers in UPSC CSE 2008 with AIR 7, Mr. Tarun Pithode had said, “Small things make a difference. As an administrator I will want to interact with the public. When the administration is away from the public, how can it make a difference?”

Cut to 2020, those words came into play in Bhopal during the first Covid wave in the country, when Mr. Pithode, as the Collector, translated them into action as he grappled with the new virus.

The Madhya Pradesh capital had emerged as a Covid hotspot and Mr. Pithode went to the common people, observed their struggles and pains, and worked day and night to alleviate their sufferings, even as he himself struggled to find his way around a new and mutating virus that constantly threw up new challenges.

That struggle taught him so much, moved him so much that he decided to record that period for posterity in a book. Thus, was born Battle with Covid: Diary of a Bureaucrat.

Indian Masterminds takes a brief look at this bureaucrat’s diary that recounts the Covid horrors and the common man’s and the administrators’ fight to not just save lives from the virus, but to keep humanity alive amidst it all.

RACE AGAINST TIME TO CONTAIN COVID SPREAD

As a child, Mr. Pithode had dreamt of becoming a Collector to improve the condition of roads around him. After joining IAS in 2009, he started living that childhood dream. But destiny had bigger roles for him, and he found himself in the middle of an unparalleled crisis when he was posted in Bhopal as the Collector.

The capital of Madhya Pradesh saw a sudden jump in Covid 19 cases overnight during the first wave, sending the administration into a tizzy.

“When the figure of 73 Covid-19 patients came to my knowledge, I felt as if I was the reason for the increase in cases. I expected a volley of questions from the public and higher-ups,” Mr. Pithode said, while speaking about his book, The Battle Against Covid: Diary of a Bureaucrat, at a session of Bhopal Literature and Art Festival recently.

Recounting the race against time, that he has vividly described in his book, Mr. Pithode said, “I used to get up at 4:00 am or 5:00 am and check my mobile phone to get first information about Covid figures.”

IAS officer Tarun Pithode presenting his book to CM Madhya Pradesh (PC: Twitter handle of the officer)

APPLYING BALM TO MIGRANTS’ PAIN

As the fight to contain the spread continued in all earnest, another bigger crisis was slowly unfolding in the form of migrant workers clamouring to return to their native places, as the metros and big cities almost gave up on them and mostly left them to fend for themselves without any source of livelihood. The plight of migrant labourers carrying loads on their heads and walking towards their native places with huge blisters on their feet was heart-wrenching.

Narrating the humanitarian crisis, Mr. Pithode said, “I had to handle the migrant workers who covered kilometres on foot to make their way back home, fleeing cities that suddenly had no place for them. But doctors, police officers, administrators and civilians came forward putting their lives on the line to save fellow citizens. I managed 1000 buses to transport them to their respective districts.”

ENSURING LAST RESPECTS FOR THE DEAD

As Covid 19 left people scarred and scared, there were instances of family members even hesitating to perform the last rites of their loved ones fearing that they will contract the virus.

Mr. Pithode recounts one such incident: “There was an instance when a man was not ready to cremate his mother, then I decided to perform the final rites of the woman. However, a tehsildar stopped me and performed the cremation. Other rituals were also performed by the tehsildar. There are several instances when relatives were hesitant to carry out the last rites of their family members and the administration helped them.”

DIARY OF A BUREAUCRAT

Mr. Pithode says that his 224-page book, The Battle Against Covid: Diary of a Bureaucrat, will serve as a reference for the new administrative officers on how to face and contain a pandemic. Besides making people aware of the steps the administration took during the pandemic, the book also aims to highlight the problems faced by the common man.

During the first and the second waves, there were times when people had no idea what to do and administrative officers came to their rescue. The book encapsulates tales about the difficulties faced by migrant labourers, doctors, police officers and the public, who risked their life and fought the virus.

He not only shares his own experiences, but also recounts the battles of other bureaucrats as well. He has incorporated the experiences of bureaucrats in MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and outlined the strategies employed by them to understand the virus and contain its spread.

He shares not just what he learnt as an administrator but as an individual also. The book is all about how the administration and the common people battled Covid-19, together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mr. Pithode belongs to a small place in Chindwara district of Madhya Pradesh called Pasaria. He did his schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya and graduated in Electronic & Communication Engineering from Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal.

He started his career as a software engineer with GE India and joined railways in 2008. While working as an Assistant Signalling and Telecom Engineer, he still managed to find time to study for CSE. “After work, I used to study in the night. Before exams I took two months leave. I took Psychology and Public Administration for the Mains.”

Mr. Pithode has served in various postings in his home cadre Madhya Pradesh in various capacities, like Director, Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, PD, Madhya Pradesh State Wide Area Network project, Collector and DM in Rajgarh, Sehore, Betul and Bhopal.

He is a prolific writer. His first book, I am Possible, is based on an inspiring story of a small-town boy aspiring to fulfil his dreams.

The book: The Battle Against Covid: Diary of a Bureaucrat

His latest book, The Battle Against Covid: Diary of a Bureaucrat, is published by Bloomsbury Publishing. Link to buy: https://amzn.to/37VsBUf

(Mr. Tarun Pithode is currently posted as Director, Food and Civil Supplies Department, GoMP and MD, Madhya Pradesh Warehousing and Logistics Corporation)


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