More than 14,000 thousand people in Assam have joined the state Disaster Management Authority’s initiative – Pratirodhi Bandhu – to support the state in the fight against coronavirus or COVID-19.
These volunteers – part of the community-driven resistance movement against the pandemic – are supporting those on the front line like health workers and policemen. They are also bridging the gap between the rural community and the administration. Olympian-boxer Shiva Thapa is one of the volunteers of the initiative, which literally means “friends at the time of a disaster”.
In a video, he can be seen endorsing the initiative. “I am a Pratirodhi Bandhu… It’s time to fight coronavirus,” he is heard saying in the video.
30-year-old Dharmendra Sarma – who works as a rural service distributor with the BSNL – is one of the volunteers. These days, he busy ensuring people adhere to social distancing norms in a rural market in Bijoynagar, 35 km west of Guwahati. He distributes sanitisers in the localities and urges people to wear masks.
Amid the uncertain times during the pandemic, people like him are trying to restore normalcy in the state.
“The main objective of this initiative is to provide psychological support, additional manpower for non-medical response needs, advocating of social distancing and hygiene among the masses, developing coordination, reporting and feedback mechanism through community reach-out during lock down,” said Pankaj Chakravarty, Project Coordinator, ASDMA. All the volunteers are working for free.
Restrictions have been eased in Assam in the fourth phase of lockdown and more and more people can now be seen out in the streets. Pratirodhi Bandhu volunteers ensure that social distancing norms are followed at this time.
“More and more details are emerging about COVID-19. Villagers are uneducated and ignorant. Our focus out to them and explain about the disaster and how they can adhere to the norms in everyday life,” Pranjit Kalita, a volunteer said.
Over 100 people in Assam have coronavirus, which has affected more than 1 lakh people across the country, killed more than 3,000.