Pune (VSK). Atharva Pathak, the 25-year-old entrepreneur engaged in product branding, looks anything but that when he’s completely zipped-up in a personal protection equipment (PPE) body suit. Pathak is required to put this on when he visits a containment zone for a house-to-house survey of residents with symptoms of Covid-19 (coronavirus).
So far, Pathak has visited the Meenatai Thackeray slum in Maharshinagar area and the Taljai slum where he participated in the house-to-house survey for 18 hours at a stretch.
He goes with a group of volunteers and is part of a large contingent of about 500 activists of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) who are assisting Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) with the survey work.
Pathak has the support of his wife and family members despite the health concerns involved in visiting the containment zone areas.
“I have been to the Meenatai Thackeray slum in Maharshinagar area and the Taljai slum. We have carried out door-to-door screenings and have also given medicines prescribed by the doctors’ team that goes along with us. Many young women have also participated in the cause and are staying with us at the Garware College quarantine centre,” he said.
Pathak and the group of volunteers were first given a briefing by PMC health team and trained on how to wear the PPE kit. After completing a three-day duty, they are required to take a break and spend the next three days in isolation at the Garware College quarantine centre. They are tested on the seventh day for Covid-19 and allowed to go home if the test is negative.
Many doctors are in quarantine with him. “Although the work has its risks, we feel we are participating in a noble cause,” he said.
Cardiologist Dr. Rajendra Patil and Ayurvedic physician Dr. Maya Golikere said they were part of the Covid-19 screening team at the Tadiwala road slum where 450 people were screened and 10 people suspected of being infected with the Covid-19 disease sent for testing. “People in red zone areas are frightened and are themselves coming forward for screening,” said Patil.
Tukaram Naik, who is heading the Jankalyan Samiti which is providing volunteers to PMC for house-to-house screening, said that although the civic body is providing mobile clinics in red zone areas in Pune, it had been facing manpower shortage.
“Additional municipal commissioner Rubal Agarwal appealed for assistance in the screening work and that’s how we organised volunteers for this work,” he said. Agarwal said, “Apart from the government machinery, many other organisations and corporates have been helping the civic body in the fight against Covid-19. We received mobile ambulances from a private organisation. RSS volunteers are working with mobile clinics for screening. Many small and big organisations have come forward and joined hands with the civic body and are trying to help in their capacity.”
On another front, the RSS Jankalyan Samiti said that as of May 10 it had distributed 1.32 lakh ration kits and 61 lakh food packets to needy families across Maharashtra. This was besides carrying out 22,747 health and sanitation-related works and blood donation drives.
RSS Jankalyan Samiti Pune head Tukaram Naik said volunteers were working with government organisations to help the needy. They are support by other organisations as well, such as Mumbai’s Dabbawalas (tiffin carriers) and Pune’s ISKCON (International society for Krishna consciousness) who were providing food packets, he said.
Food was provided to truck drivers and cleaners stranded on highways, migrant labourers, senior citizens and poor people.