At 4 am when each one of us is asleep, he steps out, leaving his family, to reach the high-risk zone — the grain market of Sector 26 from where 13 lakh residents of the city get their vegetables and daily essentials.
Meet K K Yadav, Chandigarh Municipal Commissioner, who is in the line of fire. It’s been a testing time for this officer who is facing a battle on both fronts: one to make sure uninterrupted supply of vegetables and ration for the city every day, and the other to ensure he does not bring the virus home.
There was a time when the bureaucracy in Chandigarh would remain confined to their air-conditioned offices just signing files and giving approvals. Now the situation is completely different.
Chandigarh doesn’t have its own production. Grain market sees maximum number of traders and vendors who further take these vegetables and other stuff at 6 am to respective sectors. But before that time, it is Yadav who ensures that not just proper sanitisation protocol is being followed but there are no corrupt practices in the form of hoarding that is taking place at the market.
He wakes up at 3.30 am to be there right at 4 am at the grain market. “I ensure that I am there as my presence boosts the morale of my staff. We make sure that first there is proper sanitization and there is uninterrupted supply. I know how due to breaking of the middle chain, a known company’s items couldn’t reach Chandigarh and I had to immediately make phone calls to my fellow officers in Punjab who further called up their office in Rajasthan. There are so many things you need to battle with before the sun rises,” he said.
Before we even wake up, the officer has already dealt with coordination issues and he still makes sure that vehicles and carts by vendors head to sector markets around 6 am so that city residents get their essentials on time.
Yadav then quickly heads to his office to work on the second task at hand: to make sure sanitary staff reach sector households to collect waste.
“There is a separate team of sanitary staff that collects waste from quarantined houses. They are first made to wear the equipment and then briefed about how to collect waste from the quarantined houses. The vehicles which carry the waste from these houses are separate and waste too is separately disposed of. Each such vehicle is monitored so that no sanitary staff errs on any protocol because one small mistake can lead to contagion spread,” he added.
All these days, the only thing the civic body was doing was just splurging funds on works not required and indulging in blame game after not being able to live up to city residents’ expectations, be it broken roads or ill-maintained parks. But now those who fought with one another are fighting it together on the ground doing tasks never done before. The spirit of being united in such tough times is keeping everyone going.
All the main services which involve contact with people is the civic body’s task and for Yadav it is a learning experience. “Every day is a day of learning. We face challenges, may get hyper but at the end of the day we all are working on a united front to tackle the problem and we all will be out of it one day,” he said.
But the officer’s battle doesn’t end here. After a day-long challenge at work performing all the activities in high-risk zones, at 10.30 in the night when he heads home and wants to be there with his family, he can’t even hug them or spend time with them.
“I come in contact with many people every day due to the nature of task I am supposed to do. My challenge doesn’t end at my workplace. Another challenge is to go home without carrying the virus. I am so worried at times,” he said.
There is a separate entry to the room which has been made Yadav’s COVID room which remains closed for others and no one is allowed to enter. Before meeting his family, he first changes here, goes for a shower, sanitizes his phone and leaves his belt, wallet and shoes here itself. Only after ensuring that there is nothing from field that he is carrying back to his family, he meets his family. But that too from a distance.
“My wife is an income tax officer but a doctor by qualification. She understands the situation well. Whenever I came back home in the pre-corona days, I would usually hug my pet too. Now even the pet must have been wondering why I am behaving so indifferently,” Yadav said.
“We all wake up with a hope every day — the hope of fighting it together — and this hope is the biggest motivation. I am sure we will win,” the officer said.
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