On July 25, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, 61, tested positive for Covid-19. After staying in hospital for 11 days, and in home quarantine for another week, Chouhan is now back at work, conducting meetings online and travelling only when “absolutely necessary”. He has also been urging people of his state to strictly follow all the Covid-19 safety guidelines.
What precautions do you take to stay Covid-free?
I follow all the safety measures. I use masks, frequently wash my hands, use sanitiser… All these measures have become part of my daily life now. I also ensure that all the coronavirus-linked guidelines issued by the Centre are strictly enforced in my state.
You were among the first chief ministers to test positive for Covid-19.
Yes. Once the lockdown ended, I had to travel to several places in the state for work. Despite taking all the precautions and trying my level best to protect myself, I contracted the virus and was diagnosed with Covid-19. Then, I followed all the advice given to me by the doctors and recovered fairly soon. I am back to work now.
What routine did you follow in self-isolation?
I would wake up at 4.30 in the morning and first do yoga, followed by meditation and finally offer prayers. This has always been a part of my morning routine. After that, I dive straight into my work, devoting all my time for the welfare of the people and to taking steps to bring development to Madhya Pradesh. This gives me real happiness.
What kind of gloves and mask do you use?
I mostly use masks made of cotton cloth. I am a farmer’s son and so I know how to use a gamcha (cotton stole) as a mask. I don’t use gloves very often, only while signing files. I prefer to wash my hands or use sanitiser.
What precautions do you take during public interactions?
At work, social distancing is most important. I make sure that I maintain a distance of at least two metres from everyone I meet. And, of course, the mask is always on, and I use sanitiser too. Like I mentioned earlier, it is a habit now.
How long have you gone without seeing your family?
Each and every moment of my life is devoted to the service of the people. That is why I don’t mind travelling for work that will bring welfare to the people, even if it means staying away from family.
Do you take any specific precautions while you travel?
Now, I have been travelling only when absolutely necessary. In the field, some people tend to get carried away and ignore safety measures. They want to come near you and talk. I tell them to maintain distance. I strictly follow social distancing. In fact, during my tours, I ensure that through me people get the right message about the importance of following safety measures during a pandemic.
How much time do you end up spending in front of a screen?
Because of the pandemic, most work is being done online, through video conferencing etc. So, I end up spending about 8-10 hours every day in front of a screen.
But, one can’t complain, because during the lockdown phases I could continue my work only because of online connectivity. In the early days of the pandemic, it helped us procure masks, testing kits, PPE kits, get in touch with testing labs, organise ICU beds for patients etc.
Now, I discuss the situation with collectors, divisional commissioners and people’s representatives through online meetings. I have managed to reach out to people in times of distress only because of the Internet.
How do you keep your mind off the pandemic?
I have begun to see this period as an opportunity for self-growth and practice of deep spirituality. I focus only on my work, day or night, to control the further spread of the virus. These days, I hardly travel and work from the Mantralaya. I feel a lot at peace.
What is the first thing you want to do when the pandemic is past?
The pandemic has made us realise the importance of good health, and once Madhya Pradesh is Covid-free, I want to work towards ensuring that the state gets rid of every kind of illness.
I want Madhya Pradesh to emerge as a healthy and prosperous state. After Covid, I want to begin development work in the state with complete focus and fulfil the Prime Minister’s dream of an atmanirbhar Bharat.