‘People Have Thrown Safeguards Out Of The Window’

Dr Abdul Samad Ansari, Director, Critical Care Services, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai talks about the risks of second covid-19 wave and the need to not lower our guard

The second wave is a known entity. In fact people are now talking about the third wave too. These are but the ripple effects. The spread of a contagion depends on our social behaviour: how we maintain hygiene and how we interact. If you are meeting five to seven people in a day, it can set off a block chain of infection. If you cut down on that interaction, besides using precautionary measures such as wearing masks and sanitising, you reduce the spread potential. It is that simple.

This happened last year. In September we saw the peak. And in the subsequent months, the efforts of previous six months bore fruits. But we started celebrating prematurely. As we lowered our guard, we are now facing the consequence. People returned to their daily routine as if it was business as usual. The resurgence in Covid-19 cases is a direct result of that. April and May will show the same kind of prolonged plateau. But if we again start becoming more careful, follow strict precautionary measures, along with the vaccination, there will hopefully be a flattening of the curve in June.

ALSO READ: ‘In Initial Days, Doctors Lost Sense Of Time’

Unlike the first wave, when majority of the elderly population fell prey to the contagion, the infection is seen more in the 35-65 years bracket. This is a mobile population, who are traveling for work, going out more in public and therefore getting infected.

Thankfully, our systems are not as overwhelmed as last year and the mortality rate is also not high. But if the cases continue to grow manifold, the resources will spread out thin. The same virus with only 100 people today as compared to 1000 people tomorrow will have a different mortality scenario. It is not the virus which is causing it, but the number of cases which will impact the resources and mortality.

I can notice that the attitude of people has gone back to pre-pandemic days. Many of them have this misconception that if they didn’t get Covid for one year during its rage, it won’t happen when it is weakening down. ‘Kuch nahi hota, mujhe kuch nahi hoga, dekha jayega.’ This is the kind of Covid-apathy that is setting in, and it is dangerous.

This pandemic has brought about some kind of hygiene training and discipline among us. There is no harm in maintaining it. My message to public is: we still need to practice these hygiene precautions aggressively; unnecessary travel, gatherings, entertainment activities should be avoided or carried out with behavioural modifications such as sanitizing, scrupulous handwashing and face masks.

ALSO READ: Virus Is There, Fear Is Gone

I have seen 80 percent of people in public do not wear a mask properly. Mostly, these are hanging over the neck. People have also stopped meticulously washing their hands. They feel twice in a day is good enough. People are all over the places. While I don’t want to sound negative, we need to get our guards and shield back.

Frontline workers and their families have suffered for one year, we have to acknowledge those sacrifices and not lower the defence. For a year, since the onset of pandemic, my colleagues and I went home late every night, only to leave early in the morning. I could not take care of my wife, parents and children. On the contrary, I could be possibly walking in with the virus infection every day. This was a real burnout. People must realise that their careless behaviour can negate all the hard work put in by frontline worker for one year.

As told to Mamta Sharma

‘A Year Of Pandemic: First Came Setback, Then Fightback’

Lopamudra, a 28-year-old architect in Ranchi, recounts the hardships and the lessons that one year of Coronavirus brought into her life

What a year 2020-21 has been! I came to Ranchi as a new bride in 2018, with big dreams and a desire to make a name in the field of architecture. I am a freelance architect, which means I work on project-to-project basis.

So, here I was in 2018, taking baby steps towards building a home and a career at the same time. Barely two years into work, in March-end 2020 the pandemic was officially announced, and I wondered what our future would be like! When would the pandemic be over? Would we able to pay our rent? How would construction sector be impacted?

As it turned out, the infrastructure/construction sector was one of the worst affected. It all came to a standstill and labourers started packing off to their villages or hometowns in droves. Since my husband was also employed in the infrastructure sector, it meant a double hit for us.

Apart from not being able to get any new work, our continuing projects also stopped in the lockdown. For nearly three months (March-June) there was no income; we managed with our savings. And we kept praying that neither of us should contract coronavirus.

ALSO READ: ‘In Initial Days, Doctors Lost Sense Of Time’

We decided not to lose heart and take each day at a time. We started learning new aspects of our work by watching YouTube and also took to reading more on architecture, construction and infrastructure. To keep the stress away, I picked up photography and tried capturing beautiful things around us from the terrace during lockdown. It taught me to be positive.

The lockdown was the most difficult period to say the least, as nothing moved in those three months. Even when the phased unlock began rolling out, the scenario was shaky and the future uncertain. No one was undertaking big projects and most migrant labourers still hadn’t made their way back. Figuring out new clients for new projects seemed like an uphill task.

We started networking with people new and old. We had also worked a lot on our communication skills (both verbal and written) and thus armed with new confidence we started doing the rounds. Another month went past without a project, but I finally found one in August.

ALSO READ: ‘Proud To Be Part Of Vaccination Drive’

A little window of hope opened from there and we started rebuilding our lives bit by bit. It has been six months since life gave us a second chance and we are using that chance to the fullest. To say that we have become financially wiser would be an understatement. We now know a lot more about funds, investment plans and policies than ever before. Now my husband and I shop wisely, manage resources skilfully, we keep ourselves in good health, we take all Covid precautions and restrictions seriously and we communicate with each other a lo

A good, attentive partner means you can weather any storm, even that of being without any income for nearly 3 months. People save for a rainy day, last year was like one whole rainy year for so many of us. Financial planning is the need of the hour

‘In Initial Days Of Covid-19, Doctors Lost Sense Of Time’

Dr Arista Lahiri, 31, Sr Resident (Epidemiology) at College Of Medicine & Sagor Dutta Hospital in Kolkata, recounts how healthcare professionals battled the unknown virus and why we can’t let the guard down even now

I was fresh out of medical school when the pandemic struck. Even though my field of study was community medicine and thus I was well-versed with the incidence, spread and possible control of diseases during an epidemic/pandemic, yet nothing had prepared us for a crisis of such epic proportions that affected the whole world.

I was posted at the District Hospital in 24 Parganas (North) and had gone to another city to attend a medical conference in January 2020 when coronavirus began to be discussed seriously. Wuhan was already reeling under its impact and slowly the medical fraternity across the world had begun to realise that the virus was soon going to spread much, much farther than China.

In March-end, when the pandemic was officially declared in India, I dedicated myself completely to fighting the unknown virus. We were a four-member team doing 24×7 surveillance of both active as well as potential cases to target and isolate. We were doing everything from data entry to helping Covid patients get admission in hospitals to occasionally going out in the fields to see how the situation was panning out.

ALSO READ: ‘I Delivered My Child Amid Pandemic’

For two-three months we had no sense of time, putting in every hour of work that we could and going home only to sleep. We had no life outside work for those several months and no outlet to unwind. We just kept each other motivated and in good spirits.

Dr Lahiri says battling the virus is not the job of healthcare professionals alone

I was myself scared of the contagion; there were so many people suffering around us. Each day, I pulled myself up and marched on stronger. My parents were extremely supportive and understood my duty as a medical professional.

While the rest of the country was facing only Covid, nature dealt a double blow to West Bengal: cyclone Amphan. I am quite happy with the way our state government handled the crisis. The entire state machinery from the primary to district to state-level worked in tandem. Post-Amphan, there was a shifting of roles and responsibilities and I was asked to be a member of the Covid State Cell in Kolkata in June end.

ALSO READ: ‘Proud To Be A Part Of Vaccination Drive’

We had all learnt better by then and were able to streamline our work better. The workload eased off just a tiny bit, though we were still checking in hundreds and hundreds of patients each day. One thing I was happy about was that I was now living with my parents in Kolkata.

Since then I have been working in Kolkata itself doing 12 hour shifts every day. Between my work as faculty at the College of Medicine and my work at the Sagordutta Hospital, I have to travel nearly 40 kms each day. We cannot afford to slack off even now, though we can relax a bit.

Battling the pandemic isn’t the job of frontline healthcare workers alone. Community medicine is all about a community’s adherence to rules. Even though vaccines have been developed, we need to understand that new strains of the virus might still take over. So masks, sanitizing and social distancing are still our best bets against the virus! I got both my vaccine shots, but I still take all the precautions.

‘Police Uniform Gives Me A Life Beyond ‘Badhai’ & Begging’

In an exemplary first, Chhattisgarh Police recently recruited 13 transgender persons as trainee constables. Krishi Tandi, 23, one of the recruits, tells her story to LokMarg

The growing-up period for a transgender child is never easy. But if you are born into a poor household of a small town, it can be traumatic. I too faced dilemmas, dejections, discrimination and derogatory remarks at a young age. It was difficult to reconcile to what I felt from inside and what was expected of me in the world out there.

It was only when I met other members of transgender community in Raipur (where I was born), the trauma became bearable. Yet, it pained me that the social mindset in our country leaves the members of transgender community with only two options for livelihood: Begging or Badhai (singing and dancing at wedding or childbirth). I even thought of ending my life at times. But then I met Vidya Ma’am (in 2017) and positivity breathed into my life.

Tandi, fellow recruits and Vidya Rajput (encircled) meet Chhattisgarh home minister Tamradhwaj Sahu

Vidya (Rajput) Ma’am is a community leader who helped other transgender persons fight back the stigma. She told me (and several others) that there was a provision where a transgender can apply for a column in Chhattisgarh Police constabulary. Ma’am herself was past the recruitment age but she wanted others to prepare and appear for the same. Here was an opportunity for me to live with dignity, I realized.

About 27 of us applied online for the posts in December 2017. There would be one physical strength exam and one written test. Both posed a big challenge. We had never seen a running track closely, let alone indulging into any kind of sports activity. How to train with proper sports equipment was another worry. Vidya Ma’am stepped in, once again. She arranged a trainer for us and we put in extra hours to cross the eligibility threshold. During the first few days we returned from the track with swollen limbs, muscle injuries and completely drained. But none of us called it quits.

The written exam carried its own set of hardships. Although I am Class 12 pass-out, the bullying in school had kept me from proper all-round learning. Again, Ma’am sought help from high-ranking police officials in the state and got us a police facility to study and prepare for the exam.

The recruits in in the office of Ajay Kumar Yadav, SP of Raipur Range

A few days before our physical test on April 5, 2018, I lost my father. But that only made me more determined. I cracked my physical tests and looked forward to clearing the written exam, scheduled a few months later. We took the exams but as luck would have it, the results kept getting delayed for one reason or the other. This was followed by one year of lockdown amid pandemic in 2020.

Well, we never thought it would be easy for us to don the uniform so none of us felt disappointed or demotivated. The Chhattisgarh Police finally decided to take fresh physical and written exams in January 2021. This called for fresh training, after one year of little physical activity. We trained hard. This time the physical exam was tougher, and had a few extra strength tests added. The exams were held on January 29 and results were announced on March 1. I cannot express my happiness when I saw my name on the list of the 13 who had cracked it.

I draw my strength from Vidya Ma’am who saw us through from the first post to the final. With a state uniform and badge, I will take this as an opportunity to contribute to our society in a positive manner. The (police) force has been kind in accepting our aspirations, so now it is our time to give back to the institution and society.

With Chandra Prakash Tiwari Police Line RI, Raipur

As told to Mamta Sharma

‘Mr Rawat, I’m A Mother And I Love My Ripped Jeans’

Khushbu Singh, 38, a homemaker in Mumbai, has some pointed questions for Uttarakhand Chief Minister who ridiculed a fellow woman passenger for wearing a ripped pair of jeans in a flight

Let me begin by asking this to Tirath Singh Rawat, the newly-appointed Uttarakhand CM: Are all politicians, who always appear in immaculate whites, spotless in their character? Just because they wear white, can we certify them as honest or incorruptible? If this analogy is wrong, then how does he and others like him think that judging a woman’s character from her choice of clothes is right?

Sometimes I feel as if he made that comment on his female co-passenger just to hog the limelight since debatable topics like these get everyone’s attention. But these are not the topics politicians should be debating about; there are so many more important issues to be handled. I would have been happy, if he had pointed at someone not wearing a mask on flight, rather than ripped jeans.

I am a mother to two young children and I absolutely love my various pair of ripped jeans. Many people rip their jeans themselves at home to get the look and I would totally teach my son and daughter to do a DIY (Do It Yourself) for their clothing. It is my prerogative as to what I want to wear.

Khushbu Singh would like Tirath Singh Rawat to concentrate on social issues than a woman’s choice of clothing

I have the thinking capacity to understand that my dress should be comfortable according to the season as well as occasion and event appropriate. It wasn’t like his co-passenger was wearing ripped jeans to a corporate meeting or a government event. She was travelling with her young children. You need to wear comfortable clothes to be able to travel with young kids. Jeans are comfortable. And jeans ripped at the knees make for easy movement in case you have a very hectic day ahead of you.

ALSO READ: ‘A Woman Driver In Our Days Drew Curious Crowds’

Next, tell me if mothers wearing ripped jeans are sending the wrong message to their children. By the way, will they remember my love more or my ripped jeans more? What kind of messages are such politicians sending to their own children? That it’s ok to question and belittle other people’s choices even when it is not affecting you in any way? That a grown up woman doesn’t understand what she wants or is comfortable with? That the society is only dependent on women to keep it moving? Why didn’t Mr Rawat say anything about men, for men also wear ripped jeans?

In 2017, a 14-year-old girl wearing ripped jeans was beaten up and arrested by the Iranian Police on the grounds that it was spreading vulgarity! Are we headed towards that situation? Running a country is a tough job, but putting the onus of morality on women is so easy! I am happy that so many women are standing up to such disgraceful remarks by people in position of power.

A woman wearing a particular item of clothing signifies nothing apart from her need for comfort and her sense of style. There’s a place and time for everything, and I think the female passenger was very right in wearing what she was wearing. These politicians need to be more open-minded and perhaps see more of the world. In towns and cities with cosmopolitan population coming and going, people are more open to differences in personality, looks, dressing, food etc.

As told to Yog Maya Singh

Watch – ‘Vaccination Was Smooth, Very Well Managed’

As India moves on from one milestone to another in its vaccination drive against Covid-19, LokMarg spoke to several senior citizens in Delhi-NCR about their experiences of getting the jab. Most of members interviewed said the entire process was well managed and orderly.

While some of them felt that a doctor’s presence at the vaccination point would have emboldened the beneficiaries, there was unanimity that the inoculation was organized in most professional way hitherto unseen at medical facilities.

Watch full video here

‘I Won’t Be Comfortable With An 88-Yr-Old CM For My State’

Prajesh Peter, 38, a software engineer from Kochi, says active politics can be draining and at 90 E Sreedharan will not be able to cope with the obligation required of a lawmaker

E Sreedharan is nearly 90! I totally don’t think it is the right age for him to enter politics. The Kerala voter makes well-informed choices and just bringing in a celebrity or a celebrated personality would influence only those who don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

A couple of days ago, Mr Sreedharan’s name came up as the Chief Ministerial candidate, but they later backtracked. I wonder why this happened. But it’s good that this happened. I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with him as our CM. Leading a corporate, where everyone is self-disciplined is one thing, leading a town, city, state, with all kinds of people, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I don’t think Mr Sreedharan’s entry into Kerala politics will change things for the BJP. The pandemic has shown us how important it is for us to have robust leadership at every level, but more so at the local level. I am not sure Mr Sreedharan is cut out at this age for all the actual physical hard-work that is required of a local MLA.

Peter (inset) feels engineering and politics are two different ballgames altogether

Also, what happened to BJP’s rule of not fielding candidates above the age of 75? The party bends so many rules of its own to suit its narrative. But then so many people don’t question anything that the party does.

It is rare that a person who has excelled in a particular field (be it arts, sports or engineering), will also excel in politics. These fields are about individual hard work and excellence, while politics is different ballgame altogether. I don’t see former Rajya Sabha members like Sachin Tendulkar and Rekha having brought any change even to their own fields, forget social issues at large.

ALSO READ: ‘Sreedharan’s Entry Into Politics A Boon For Kerala’

Similarly, for Mr Sreedharan, good reputation isn’t necessarily going to translate into a good political innings. In politics, you have to have a keen understanding of local issues and how they intertwine with national level and international level politics. A politician should be a social worker first.

In June 2019, when the Delhi government proposed free commute for city women in Delhi Metro, Mr Sreedharan wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying it would set a bad precedent. Why couldn’t the ‘Metro Man’ communicate directly with the state government of Delhi, where the issue belonged? I had an inkling then itself that he might join politics in future.

Many people laud him as the force behind the ambitious Metro projects. But it is not the achievement of Mr Sreedharan alone. The Delhi Metro Project was brought in by the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government. It was the political backing that made everything possible, from the doing away of bureaucratic roadblocks, getting international loans sanctioned to see the Delhi Metro built through heavily-populated areas.

So far in his career, he has to be answerable to only a few. I would love to see how Mr Sreedharan fields questions asked by the media, and would love to know his views on important matters and just how much hard-work he is ready to put in as a political candidate.

As told to Yog Maya Singh

‘We Will Choose Bengal’s Didi Over Muslim Owaisi’

Maulana Shahidul Qadri, 45, from Dhankheti, Metiaburj in Kolkata, says local issues hold key to assembly elections and therefore he will prefer Trinamool candidate than a divisive BJP or AIMIM

At a time when many people around the country have given in to the politics of division and polarity, people in Bengal are still standing united, strongly. We Bengalis form an opinion after a lot of deliberation and in-depth understanding and analysis of a matter, and thus one cannot divide us so easily.

As a Maulana and also as an Imam of the masjid at Dhankheti (Metiaburj), I tell people not to fall prey to the politics of hate; firqakaparasti wali baton me mat aaiye. We also tell people through editorials in various newspapers that we should not forget local issues while state elections are underway.

I wonder why BJP makes every election, right down to even the civic body elections, about national issues. Wasn’t our election system created and upgraded so that issues at every level could find adequate voice and be solved subsequently?

BJP might try bringing in the big guns for the elections, but Mamata Banerjee will once again become the CM. We have chosen to support Didi even over a Muslim candidate, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi. It is not about Hindu-Muslim leaders, but rather on who as a leader has an understanding of local issues.

ALSO READ: Battle For Bengal Is The Election To Watch

The BJP-TMC face-off means everyday there’s some new statement from either side, but the electorate is noticing everything. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have robust local leadership and we will keep focussing on that.

Bengal was a more peaceful place earlier, but now you hear news of BJP-TMC or BJP-Left clashes. I condemn incidents like attacks on JP Nadda; violence shouldn’t have any place in a democracy. We are Bengalis and Indians too, apart from being Hindus and Muslims.

Sometimes I wonder if like Assam, madarsa education will be banned in West Bengal as well! How will we then understand the basics of the faith we practise? There are many other ways in which the Muslim identity and the country’s Constitution and the institutions are being chipped away by the BJP but we have faith in both Mamata Didi and Allah.

NRC-CAA, Shaheen Bagh, illegal Bangladeshi immigrant, purportedly for whom the bill was brought in… was a burning issue just an year ago, do you hear as much of it during Bengal elections? Why? We can see through everything. The Prime Minister is not the leader of a party alone and not only of a particular party or community. He must take the whole country together and walk.

ALSO READ: It’s Bengal Trinamool Vs Outsider BJP

The first term of this government was all about sowing seeds of mistrust between communities that had been mostly living peacefully for so long. The second term was all about interpreting law in such a way that that hatred was normalised. Even though we respect the Ram Janmbhoomi verdict, it would have been nice if the bhoomi-poojan had been a calmer affair.

Triple talaq, Delhi riots, NRC and now the love jihad (which the Supreme Court has said doesn’t hold true because relationship between two consenting adults is their choice), I wonder when will all this stop and when will we begin focussing on issues that really matter for us as a country?

No leader is perfect, and Mamata Banerjee gets angered easily, but we feel ke unka dil saf hai aur hausla buland. She has our interests at heart. We hope in the coming years she will mature into a calmer leader and learn to strategize better, Bengal and the country can truly benefit from that.

‘In Our Times, A Woman Driver Would Pull Curious Crowds’

Mary George, 80, first lady civil engineer in the Kerala State Electricity Board, tells us what woman empowerment means to her

When people ask me what women empowerment means to me and how much it has changed over the generations, one particular example comes to my mind. I started driving a car in the 1960s at a time when very few women drove cars in Trivandrum. Those days, whenever I ventured out to rural pockets in my car, people would gather on both sides of the road, calling out: “Hey look, there is a woman behind the wheel.” Today a woman driver will not get a second look. This is how women empowerment has evolved over the past few decades.

When I started working, it was difficult for me to manage work and family together. Over the course of my career spanning 34 years in the Kerala State Electricity Board, I went from being the only lady civil engineer in my department to guiding hundreds of young and enthusiastic girls who chose to join the board as engineers. So, the change has been a constant factor.

I am the eldest of the seven children of my parents. In 1958, I got admission into the BSc (Engg.) course in Trivandrum, Kerala. I was one of the 13 girls among the 70 students admitted into the Civil Engineering course. Ours was the second batch in which girls were admitted. The first batch had only two girls.

ALSO READ: ‘How I Turned The (Dining) Tables On Covid’

After completing engineering, I was selected for appointment at the Kerala State Electricity Board as Junior Engineer in the Chief Engineers Office, Trivandrum. At that time, I was the only lady engineer in the Kerala State Electricity Board.

Most of my colleagues and seniors were quite supportive, especially because they found me to be sincere and willing to work hard. But yes, there were a handful of instances where some staff tried to take advantage of me, probably because of the gender.

There was an influential trade union leader who told me he had little time to sign the attendance register. But I was firm and told him: No signing would mean you are marked absent. He got the message that I meant business.

In another instance, I found much discrepancy in accounts of projects and works which had been completed several years prior to my appointment and needed my clearances. I firmly put my foot down and told the staff concerned that these files will get my sanctions only if they are updated correctly. I gave them two months’ time.

I was indeed pleased to see that the boys burned midnight oil to finish the task before deadline. So, the glitches that carried on for several years were brought up-to-date in a matter of two months. An officer only needed to show the intent; discipline flows down.

ALSO READ: ‘Lockdown Gave Me A Home Business’

I strongly believe that this goes to show how much impact one can make through having the right attitude and being sincere in the work one does. If we are sincere, the people who work with us will also become sincere.

In 1995, I became the first lady Chief Engineer of the Civil Engineering Department in the Kerala State Electricity Board and returned to Trivandrum. I continued in that capacity till my retirement in 1996.

I am happy to say that I have continued my family tradition to provide good education to my children. Both our sons are specialist doctors. My elder daughter-in-law is a Professor of Community Medicine and the younger a Professor of Psychiatry in medical colleges in Kerala. I am so happy to see all the women in our family as professionals.

As told To Mamta Sharma

‘Regular Rise In Petrol Price Has Upset Home Budget’

Nihar Ranjan Panigrahi, 29, an engineer in Ranchi, says commuting on his motorbike is getting costlier by the day but one cannot risk using public transport amid pandemic

The rising petrol prices have meant that every month we have to keep making new adjustments to our monthly home budget. I am a daily bike user and travel nearly 12 kms for work purposes daily. Believe me, rising petrol prices are a big concern. Where earlier say ₹500 was going towards petrol now we have to set aside ₹700 for it.

Not only that, the prices of many commodities like fruits, vegetables etc have also shot up because of the transportation cost due to rise in petrol prices. So, as a whole, our monthly budget has gone up by a total of around ₹2,000.

I live in Ranchi but I have my roots in Odisha. Recently my wife and I had to go to our hometown there for some very urgent work. Trains and buses had been booked to full and in any case we didn’t feel very safe using public transport for the long distance during the pandemic. So my bike it was! We travelled several hundreds of kilometres on our bike and this trip burnt a big hole in my pocket.

ALSO READ: ‘Health, Defence Vital But What About Inflation?’

What is the common man supposed to do? One can only feel angry when you feel the pinch. But there is little option for us. There are many people who have lost their jobs during lockdown period and so many others who either faced salary-cut or no raise since last year.

Public transport still doesn’t feel like a safe option, what with so many people not wearing masks in public. One cannot risk contracting the virus. Your personal vehicle is costly but at least it is safe.

Nihar says common man has no option but to move on

My wife cycles every day to her workplace. She doesn’t have to worry about the rising petrol prices with her cycle. And she also feels happy that she isn’t contributing towards pollution. Perhaps the rising petrol prices will push many others to use cycles. However, for many, cycle can’t be a mode of family transport.

The government really needs to work on putting a stop to the rise in petrol prices. While the prices of oil and petrol barrels have been falling worldwide, I wonder why our government is not passing this benefit to the consumer! Plus, the government also needs to be really considerate with the pricing of everything: this is the post-pandemic world! Also, public transport needs to be made more robust.

As told to Yog Maya Singh