60 volunteers join PMC in fight against novel coronavirus


Citizens who sign up to relieve exhausted civic staff will man control room, undertake surveys, help out at COVID-19 care centres and swab collection hubs; officials say they are on lookout for more do-gooders as the pandemic stretches

Amid the pandemic, stories abound around us of people shunning COVID-19 patients and their families, and running away from the slightest hint of infection even without confirmation. But at the same time, in a heartening development, at least 60 citizens from all over the city have stepped up to help the tired and overworked officials of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) as volunteers to tackle the ongoing outbreak.

From working at COVID-19 care centres (CCCs) to manning the war room and various other tasks, these ‘Covid sevaks’ — age, gender, religion, caste and class no bar — will now be of great relief in distributing the increasing work, said civic staffers, even as a few of the bravehearts themselves told Mirror that they feel this is the best time to step up and do their duty by humanity.

Through them, PMC now hopes to reach out to every single coronavirus patient personally, and has further clarified that even more volunteers are being sought — especially IT experts, social work graduates for counselling work, medical professionals and young volunteers to help out at various centres.

Despite the risk, volunteers of all ages (L-R) have family support, say it is their duty to step up when society needs it the most; they will also help out at quarantine facilities (centre)

With a respectable honorarium offered besides a chance to help out, such willing dogooders can register at their willingness at covidsevak. punecorporation.org.

Just as the pandemic had been acknowledged here in March, PMC had appealed to citizens to volunteer for various kinds of work to help the civic administration. While numerous citizens applied in April, the process never took off at the time. Now, four months down the line, the increasingly desperate civic body has released an order with a list of volunteers to be assigned various pandemic duties. These volunteers will help at CCCs, with surveys, in helping the specially abled, and also at quarantine centres. Most will be deployed at the control room to keep check on positive patients and reach out to every single one of them.

Speaking on the move, PMC commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said, “We have decided to talk to every COVID-19 positive patient on a one-to-one basis. So, we will deploy volunteers at our control room in three shifts. They will be given a questionnaire from which they will ask the patient about facilities available at home, if they need any medical help, and more. Based on this, patients will be further connected to doctors. Also, at CCCs, volunteers will be responsible for the supply of whatever is in shortage. At swab collection centres, they will ensure distancing, etc. Today, most of our staff is fatigued after months of continuous work. A new lot is also necessary to tackle this outbreak. These volunteers will definitely help.”

The 60 volunteers in the PMC list are being deputed at various centres based on the zone that they live in. Despite the risks involved, many enjoy their family’s support in their task, and feel this is more than just a duty. For instance, 28-year-old Swapnil Jagdale, a resident of Lohegaon who works as a civil contractor, had seen his friends from PMC work tirelessly. This, he claims, got him to apply. While his only experience of volunteering is cleaning forts, he felt that the pandemic is a time when he is really needed. “My friends who work at PMC have not taken a break for months. They are working so hard. I felt this was the least I could do. Initially, my parents —who live in Solapur — opposed the idea. But later, they were convinced. I want to do whatever I can to help,” he asserted.

Another young volunteer, 24-year-old Sakhee Bhadkamkar, has worked throughout the lockdown for stranded migrants, and was more than happy when she found out about this job. A student pursuing her BEd in Pune, she has already helped Kothrud police in data entry work for migrants going home during the lockdown. While she has done social work through organisations like Jnana Prabodhini in vasti areas, she has also completed a Teach for India fellowship. The latest task, she said, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I had applied for volunteer work with PMC months ago, but didn’t hear back. So, I approached the local police for work. People are panicking. It is necessary to step up in these times. My parents are also supporting me,” she informed.

Bravely, 43-year-old Fahmin Hussain is ready to take the risk despite having a threeyear-old child at home. While she used to work at a pathology laboratory, she had quit her job to look after her kid. It is her existing knowledge of medicine that she feels could help in these crucial times — and hence, she applied for volunteering. On a practical note, she shared, “We have to learn to live with COVID-19. Creating awareness is the need of the hour. I wanted to help. My husband’s work starts in the evening, so I can work from morning till 4 pm and do my bit for society.”

Others have also lost work during the lockdown, and are courageously using this time to contribute. For instance, Kailas Gondhale, a painting contractor from Vishrantwadi who also drives an auto-rickshaw, has had no source of income for weeks. But what upsets him even more is that his friends have not been selected for the volunteering list, and that he could not start his work right away. Gondhale —who has done ration distribution work and also organised blood donation camps with his friends in recent times — is simply waiting to be assigned duty. He said, “When I got a call from PMC, I immediately met civic officials to ask what I can do. They said that there are few formalities that need to be completed and so, I could not start on Tuesday. People have now stopped following health safety norms, especially after relaxations. Cases are increasing. Instead of being scared, we need to help. This is what I am doing. There is no risk involved if we take precautions.”



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