Hit by COVID 19, Floods And Japanese Encephalitis, This IAS Officer Still Won The Battle
- Raghav Goyal
- Published on 8 Oct 2020, 3:06 pm IST
- 4 minutes read
Ms Varnali Deka is the shining example of how to fight three battles simultaneously, and come out victorious in all. Here, in the first of a two-part series, we take a close look at her style of functioning and how she defeated coronavirus in Assam’s Goalpara district.
- Ms. Varnali Deka, Deputy Commissioner, Goalpara
It never rains, it pours. The truism of the old idiom must have really hit the Goalpara district of Assam- because very recently it was hit, almost simultaneously, by Covid19, devastating floods, and Japanese Encephalitis. Add to this the many waves of returning migrants to the district, and one can imagine the unenviable position Goalpara would have been in.
Thankfully, we had Ms. Varnali Deka at the helm of the affairs, as the hardy Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara. She held not one, but the above mentioned three bulls by the horns and effectively checked what could have been a devastating trail of destruction and loss of lives in her district.
Creating Central Screening Center
In an exclusive interview with Indian Masterminds, Me Deka- the 2009 batch officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre- shared her strategy in dealing with the mounting problems as they came thick and fast in Goalpara. Recalling the events, she said “It was in February 2020 when the students, migrants, and businessmen who had gone out of the state, started returning back home. During that time, the Covid19 testing was not available, so as a precautionary measure we started thermal scanning and screening of the returnees. We also created an exhaustive database to keep a record of their travel history.
”As soon as COVID testing protocols came in Goalpara, we created a central screening center which was situated at two entry points of the district. Any person coming by road, rail, or air had to immediately visit the screening center, for which the transportation was provided by us.”
Another focus area of Ms. Deka was to reach out to the people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. As a first step, she ensured that MNREGA forms were kept in all the screening centres, and the migrant labourers seeking employment could fill these up before serving the quarantine period. “After the completion of the quarantine period, we used to provide them with jobs under individual beneficiary schemes through their job cards. Under MNREGA, we focused on the various employment generating schemes for them,’’ she said.
Apart from this, there was seamless integration among different Government departments of Goalpara, and efforts were made to upgrade the skill set of migrant labourers.
Central COVID Monitoring Cell
Ms. Varnali said, “I realised early on that the most efficient model of working is the so-called election model; so, we had a central team which hand-picked the most efficient officers in the administration. The officers who have been recognized with good fieldwork, immediate delivery, and decision making over the time of their service were selected to drive the whole exercise. Flying squads were made to respond on the ground immediately as action wings. Control room contact numbers were also publicized through loudspeakers.”
Ms. Deka’s strategy of involving religious leaders, students’ associations, and community leaders to spread awareness about the COVID pandemic really paid off. Thanks to these efforts, Goalpara became the district with the lowest infection rate in the entire Assam. And this milestone was achieved by the district administration in March itself!
Contributing a Month’s Salary to the CM Relief Fund
Ms. Varnali Deka believes not only in leading from the front but also in setting an example. As soon as the pandemic hit Goalpara, she donated her one-month salary to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. This not only boosted the morale of the people in the district but also had a cascading effect. “It sent a positive message across the district and many organisations and individuals came forward to donate in the CM relief fund as well as the PM Cares fund. Even small contributions of 300-500 were accepted, as these could feed a family of five for a week.”
She indeed set a shining example. “People who had a steady income came forward to contribute for individuals who were really in need and even relatively poor section of people also contributed in the fund,” added the IAS officer.
Many areas of India are still battling the onslaught of COVID 19. But by the look of things, the Goalpara district of Assam is out of the woods. And a big credit for this goes to the never-say-die IAS officer Ms. Varnali Deka.
END OF THE ARTICLE