As the world is infested with the novel coronavirus and as our nation is stricken with fear of the pandemic, we as frontline workers of Covid-19 have no choice but to face and fight the invisible enemy.
Every morning, when most families are sound asleep, we have to leave home to attend to the call of humanity. It is difficult to leave our crying children at home and quietly close the doors and gates behind us, only to march ahead for Covid-19 duty.
We fear we could come in contact with some Covid-19 positive person during the day, and we doubt whether we will be able return home safe and sound. Only one thing is certain: if I come in contact with a positive case, then I will surely not be going back home but would be moved to a quarantine centre instead. From there, I may go home after a specific period of time, or may not return home ever. This uncertainty really haunts us, and it has developed insomnia among all those on Covid-19 duty.
Going out early in the morning and returning late in the night has become the routine since 22 March, 2020, with the start of the nationwide janata curfew, then the state lockdown, followed by the nationwide lockdown.
In the initial days, late night dinner was the only meal of the day we could be certain of. In the later phase, many good people came out to serve us tea, snacks, breakfast and sometimes even lunch. We are so thankful to those generous people of Bhalukpong.
As Bhalukpong is the entry gate to three districts – West Kameng, Tawang and East Kameng – we had to face many challenges while performing our Covid-19 duty.
Being the only entry gate to these districts, many army, paramilitary forces, GREF personnel and staffs of other organizations pass through this gate, while returnees of all the three districts make a transit halt of one night at Bhalukpong, and thereafter leave in a convoy with escorts to their respective destinations the next day.
However, if the roads are blocked due to heavy rain or any other reason, they have to halt there for more than a few days. The area shares a porous boundary with neighbouring Assam; hence, it is a challenging task to control the movement of people and goods within the two states.
And yet, despite many difficulties and shortfalls, the Covid-19 warriors of Bhalukpong, including doctors, health workers, administration, police personnel and all the departments are doing so well. The source of their strength is the support they get from the people of Bhalukpong.
The confederation of community-based organizations and NGOs are extending support to the frontline workers from the very first day. They are also helping migrants and stranded labourers. The elite members of the Aka tribe, the local inhabitants of Bhalukpong, student bodies, and other residents of various communities, besides the business community, have also been serving refreshments to the Covid-19 workers. Among them, the Navajyoti Royal Heritage School still serves evening tea to the Covid-19 warriors daily. Also, the youth volunteers from Bhalukpong and Tippi are physically involved in this fight against the coronavirus right from the beginning.
Moreover, Thrizino-Buragaon MLA Kumsi Sidisow has been personally monitoring and interacting with the frontline workers from day one. He is in continuous touch with all stakeholders and has been providing financial assistance to frontline workers and volunteers at regular intervals. Needless to mention that he has given financial aid to all the health centres of his constituency, besides masks, hand sanitizers, raincoats and other equipment being provided from time to time.
He has prompted companies, corporations and PSUs to donate for West Kameng district in the fight against the coronavirus. This overwhelming support from various corners has been the strength of the Covid-19 warriors of Bhalukpong.
Despite such huge support, the frontline workers still had problems as they could not get lunch because they could not afford to go home and expose their families to possible Covid-19 infection. However, in no time, good Samaritans turned up and this problem was also mitigated as a group of women volunteered to provide free lunch for the frontline workers and volunteers by organizing a community kitchen.
We have been seeing the women for the last three months. Although their beautiful faces are masked, the beauty of their hearts is manifested in their deeds. They manage everything; they cook and serve us food when we come back. After our hectic duties, we too just walk in and take whatever they serve and walk away after thanking them.
Those who do not know them and those who have not seen them from close proximity may not acknowledge their service and the hardship they have also been facing. Sometimes, we hear them whispering how their children are doing at their homes when they are out to serve us, and how their husbands are taking care of their children the whole day long.
These women are mostly nursing mothers. Yes, they have families and kids at their home, too. They too have pain, difficulties and fears. Yet they come to the community kitchen at the government ME school in Lower Bhalukpong in the morning, prepare food, serve lunch to the Covid-19 workers and volunteers, clean the dishes, and then go back home by evening.
Their voluntary service has kept all the Covid-19 warriors active, healthy, strong and united. Their services and their sacrifices have made us all to forget our worries, the hardship we face and our fears of the coronavirus.
These brave and generous volunteers are led by Margaret Hage Yaku Sidisow, who is the wife of MLA Kumsi Sidisow. She has been with these volunteer women for the last three months, practically involved every step of the way.
I thank you dear most beautiful ladies of Bhalukpong; you have alleviated our fears and hunger. We have nothing to give you back and we can never thank you enough, but we assure you the best of our efforts to fight against the coronavirus to keep you, your family and your people free from Covid-19.
Presently, the nation is on an unlocking phase and returnees are quarantined at their own expenses from 1 July, 2020, and there are many relaxations in activities in the new SOP. But the work and responsibilities of the frontline workers have remained the same; in fact their responsibilities and risks have increased all the more. The support and services from the government to the Covid-19 warriors are apparently being phased out, but these kind-hearted ladies have not given up their services and they still continue to provide free lunch to the frontline workers and volunteers.
We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic affects all; so everybody needs to come forward to fight it, and everyone has to take care of themselves. Stay safe and maintain social distancing.