In the frontline of a grim battle against coronavirus are over nine lakh Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers -- mainly women. Their primary task is to work as an interface between the community and the public health system. Plus, there are over 3.5 million Anganwadi workers -- again, mainly women -- whom the state governments have enlisted to fight the virus.
These workers carry the power of persuasion and their conviction of putting the nation first to take the fight deep inside villages where they, at times, encounter hostile villagers and feel insecure in the absence of any security.
"We have to first convince ourselves and then the people we are interacting with, that after all, humanity is bigger than an individual''s life", says Renu Sharma, an Anganwadi worker, as she tirelessly knocks every door in rural colonies of Greater Noida, near the national capital, and collects inputs from villagers about their recent travel history and symptoms of the COVID-19 disease from each family in the areas assigned to her -- regardless of the risk of contracting the infection.
States across the country have directed ASHA and Anganwadi or rural child care workers to speak to families in their areas, check for symptoms, and advise them about precautions in dealing with Covid-19.
The purpose is clear: Not a single COVID-19 infected person should be left unaccounted in the attempt to contain the spread of the deadly virus, which has claimed over 170 lives in the country with over 5,000 confirmed cases.
Renu was earlier involved in counselling married couples and pregnant women, and gathered food and medicines for the children. Tasked only a fortnight back in the anti-corona fight, she, along with Devwati -- known as Asha didi -- has visited hundreds of houses to ascertain whether there is any infected person in the hinterland of the country.
Aren''t they scared in their limited personal protective gear? "It''s an occasion to serve humanity. We are scared of the disease, but who will come forward if everyone thinks only for oneself? asks Devwati.
"There is a possibility of us getting infected as we visit so many houses every day. We try to follow the instructions on how to avoid infection," says Renu. They wear white gloves, face masks and use sanitisers frequently.
Carrying a chart provided by the district hospital in Bisrakh in Greater Noida, Renu says Anganwadi and ASHA workers are sent in groups to gather details on people''s travel history and whether all is well in houses they visit. "When we get any relevant information, we note the name and all details on the chart. We are told to cover at least 200 houses every day."
Devwati says over 100 ASHA and Anganwadi workers report to the district hospital from where they along with a doctor are sent to different areas in a bus.
"We are left at some particular place and assigned a task to cover some specific areas," says Renu.
Many like her earn between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000 per month. They don''t expect anything extra.
As the Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday announced plans to seal some specific hotspots in 15 districts of the state, the work of these warriors has increased manifold.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)--IANS
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