Good News Diary

The Wonder Women leading India's Coronavirus war

This is a war that the women of India are winning as they lead key institutions, departments, ministries, states or quietly work in their villages.

 |  Good News Diary  |  4-minute read |   05-05-2020
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It’s been one of the toughest battles to fight and this is a war that women are winning. From driving research on making the vaccine, to setting testing protocols to assessing states' preparedness, to masks and PPEs, to flawless execution on the ground. This is how the women of India are winning the war against Covid-19.

What does it take to wage a war with a virus? As it turns out, it needs empathy, planning, research, acceptance, humility, flawless execution and the ability to work hard. This is a war that the women of India are winning as they lead key institutions, departments, ministries, states or quietly work in their villages. Amid the deluge of negativity and fear, here are the women who are working against odds and with several constraints.

main_wonder-women_050520075115.jpgClockwise from top left: KK Shailaja, Pomi Baruah, Preeti Sudan, Dr Nivedita Gupta, Renu Swarup and Dr Priya Abraham. (Photo: ANI, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

Did you know that India and Italy reported their first Covid-19 cases on January 30, 2020? Kerala has a population of 3.48 crores while Italy has a population of 6.4 crores. As on May 5, Italy had reported 29,079 deaths while Kerala had reported 500 cases and 4 deaths. At the forefront of the spectacular Kerala story is the health minister of the state, the 63-year-old KK Shailaja — one of the two women ministers in Pinarayi Vijayan’s cabinet. She was also at the forefront of the state’s battle against the Nipah virus in 2018. The first case in the country was reported in Kerala.

As Jeemon Jacob from India Today reported, a control room was set up on January 23. A strategy was in place. The state deployed rigorous contact tracing, set up Covid-19 care centres in all districts, health workers supported people with special needs and the elderly living alone. Counsellors made over three lakh calls to personnel working in affected areas, counselling them on how to handle stress.

At the heart of the Kerala success story is acceptance, transparency, empathy, attention to detail, constant monitoring, lots of planning and preparedness. If the Kerala model is now a case study on how to combat the virus, Shailaja is the one who cracked the code.

Meanwhile, in Assam, at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 is a civil servant, Pomi Baruah. She is the state nodal officer of the ‘104’ helpline desk and was instrumental in collecting data about people, including the Tablighi Markaz attendees. It was based on the data collected by the 104-helpline desk that the district magistrates could track 570 Tablighi Markaz returnees who had gone into hiding.

In New Delhi, Preeti Sudan — a 1983 batch IAS officer from Andhra Pradesh, secretary of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare — is constantly reviewing preparedness of all states and union territories.

At the division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases in ICMR, Dr Nivedita Gupta, who is the in-charge of viral diseases, is building testing and treatment protocols in India. She was also the primary scientist involved in the investigations and containment of the Nipah outbreak in Kerala last year. She has been instrumental in setting up the virus research and diagnostic laboratory network of ICMR.

Renu Swarup at the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Department of Biotechnology is doing crucial research on the coronavirus vaccine. In an interview to The Print, she said she is also working on scaling capacities of start-ups to manufacture low-cost ventilators and testing kits.

Dr Priya Abraham leads the National Institute of Virology, which is affiliated to the ICMR and was initially the only testing centre in the country for Covid-19. The NIV succeeded in reducing the testing time of Covid-19 samples to four hours from 12 to 14 hours.

Away from the cities, in over 90 per cent of India’s districts, 67 million women who are a part of six million self-help groups are producing face masks, running community kitchens, delivering essential food supplies, and combating misinformation in rural India. They are ensuring that India wins this war, fair and square.

Also read | Nirmala, Nusrat, Chandrani, Pramila: Why we are applauding all the women MPs in the House


Shweta Punj Shweta Punj @shwwetapunj

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