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Thursday, October 29, 2020

14 Days after giving birth, Ghaziabad’s officer for Covid returns to office, with newborn in tow

On September 17, she gave birth to a girl at a Meerut hospital and rejoined office 14 days later — along with the infant — on October 1.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | Ghaziabad | October 13, 2020 3:38:03 am
SDM Saumya Pandey in her office. (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

Modinagar sub-divisional magistrate Saumya Pandey (26) was seven months pregnant when she was appointed as the Ghaziabad district nodal officer for Covid in July. At a time when the district was reporting around 100 cases every day, the officer had the option of availing paid maternity leave. Instead, she continued with field visits and coordinated implementation of Covid-related district schemes.

On September 17, she gave birth to a girl at a Meerut hospital and rejoined office 14 days later — along with the infant — on October 1. Those visiting the camp office attached to her residence can find the newborn sleeping peacefully in her arms as the officer makes calls or notes for meetings and visits.

“There are many people working tirelessly for the cause of Covid… doctors, nurses and many others. At such a point, I could not abandon my official duty. The best I could do was take every precaution for myself and the baby. I hoped I wouldn’t contract it as pregnant women are in the vulnerable group. I took only 22 days of necessary leave and joined within two weeks of delivery,” she said.

Saumya cleared the UPSC exam in 2016 with all-India rank 4, after completing engineering from NIT in Allahabad. A gold medalist in LBSNAA civil services training academy, her start-up project on ‘Innovations in defence excellence’ was also awarded during her training in the Ministry of Defence. In October 2019, she was given charge of joint magistrate in Ghaziabad.

Even before handling the Covid department directly, Saumya was part of lockdown enforcing measures and oversaw movement of migrant labourers. In the weeks to come, she would visit markets for monitoring essential supplies and ensure functioning of community kitchens to feed more than 10,000 people. In the final days of her pregnancy, she focused more on data as she “could not move”.

“Being the nodal officer, I had to streamline working between the administration and medical department. I visited Covid hospitals and interacted with doctors and patients and collated data accordingly. The DM and all of us other officials set up the Covid helpline to further help in passing information. I wore a face shield, mask, and gloves at all times, especially during hospital visits, hoping the precautions would suffice,” she said.

Saumya remains on administrative Covid duty as she rejoined as SDM after foregoing her maternity leave. From visits to Covid hospitals to public meetings in the tehsil office, she interacts with hundreds on a daily basis. And with due precautions, the child’s routine has now become a part of her own. “Pregnancy is a physiological process but there is a general taboo around it. Devoting time to the baby is part of my daily time management as I do with work. We are facing an unprecedented crisis… and every minute counts,” Saumya told The Indian Express.

“I sanitise myself thoroughly every time I step inside from a visit, even if it means multiple times in a day. I try and feed her in the morning so she can sleep inside but babies this young have an odd pattern. So I keep shuttling between the office outside and the camp office so I can work with her. I haven’t even had the time to decide a name for her,” she said.

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