To learn from the best practices in tackling the second wave of Coronavirus, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a special talk on “Practitioners’ Experience in Tackling the Second Wave in the Union territory of Puducherry” on May 18, 2021.
The eminent speaker to discuss this pertinent issue was Dr. T Arun, Secretary (Health), Project Director, Project Implementation Agency (PIA), Government of Puducherry; CEO, Puducherry Smart City Development Ltd. Former District Collector-Cum-Revenue Secretary, Puducherry District, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Officer 2013 batch.
The Chairperson was Dr. M. Ramachandran, Former Union Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. He initiated the talk by highlighting that during these unprecedented times, it is important that the fabric of the society should be united and the role of youngsters like Dr. T Arun who are working relentlessly for the public is remarkable and should be appreciated. Nobody was prepared for this pandemic as it is an open-ended scenario and a hands-on approach with effective leadership is needed. There are no clear guidelines as to how to handle this huge pandemic, keeping that in mind, it is important to learn from best local practices.
Dr M. Ramachandran also pointed out an important learning from the LBSNAA that the reputation of the officer spreads even before reaching the place of posting. Therefore, Empathyand being considerate is very important. Commanding respect and building a real connection with the people can go a long way in handling a District effectively. Civil servants can no more remain anonymous entities for the people and be a “Baabu” of the district; they need to be at the ground level.
A brief PPT was presented regarding the Puducherry by the IMPRI Team. Puducherry was a French colony. It changed its name from Pondicherry to Puducherry on September 20, 2006. The areas of Puducherry district and Karaikal district are bound by the state of Tamil Nadu, while Yanam district and Mahé district are enclosed by the states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, respectively. Puducherry has an excellent position in socio-economic indicators. It is positioned 4th in terms of sustainable development index too.
Dr M Ramachandran
Sharing information enhances confidence in people. It is important to note that in civil service, people come from different sectors and expertise. It is a service mix of varied experiences. People look up to the leader in turbulent times for support and assistance during these difficult times. Thus, transformational leadership is much needed!
Integrated command and control, war rooms and linking patient with a doctor has been really successful in Puducherry. According to Dr. M. Ramachandran, we have to look for resources all cross as done by Dr. T Arun.
In Puducherry, health infrastructure is remarkable. ASHAs and Anganwadi workers helped in creating awareness among the people. According to Dr M Ramachandran, Investment in health infrastructure is half battle won. Restrictions don’t work sometimes as borders are porous. We can’t have artificially defined urban limits anymore. The largeness of approach is needed. Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry’s planning needs to be linked. Peripheral areas need attention as there is no constitutional definition of these areas. Pro-active measures should be adopted for better outcomes.
Small is Beautiful
Dr M. Ramachandran concluded that Puducherry is well placed as it has good resources and enlightened political leadership. At all India level, a holistic approach should be adopted. We are living in unfortunate times as people are dying outside hospitals due to a lack of oxygen beds. So, there is a question for research that is small state workable and viable to implement policies. The accessibility issue is really crucial here.
Dr Simi asked how Anganwadi workers are protected and are centralized decision making, fewer politics and streamline administration processes, a reason for Puducherry’s success. Are elections a reason for this upsurge and what are the steps to promote awareness among the youth regarding vaccination?
Dr T Arun responded to the question by asserting that training and orientation for Anganwadi workers were organized to understand the basics of coronavirus, there is a regular supply of protective kits, masks and sanitizer. Extra kits too are saved. According to him, Elections are a reason for the upsurge and surge invariants. Regarding vaccines, youth is coming forward for vaccines. Also, politicians visiting hospital wards with PPE kits give motivation to doctors. These symbolic measures are really important as it gives a message that“We are with you”.
Learn from Peers
According to Dr T Arun, every suggestion is good, it adds to the incremental value. In Puducherry, there are 30 representatives for 15 lakh people and their role has been instrumental as they have helped in the delivery of services. The leader’s role and ground-level action are very important. Political representatives have to become active. Good ideas need to be actionable.
Dr M Ramachandran highlighted that integrated approach, human factor and behavior of people during elections needs to be debated deeply. New technologies and techniques such as blockchain technology for voting procedures are the near future. Innovations and creativity like Buses to be used for supplying basic provisions in a lockdown can be useful. We have to learn from others; just an initiative is required to lead to victory. Be open to new learnings.
Dr T Arun believes that bureaucracy is managing this crisis and serving people at their best level. Districts are looking after the best examples and are doing their best. Everyone is on their job. He concluded by saying that “We will overcome this together”. Rebuild the nation and infrastructure.
Dr T Arun is a beacon of hope and what keeps him motivated is that “Actions lead to change”. It is a very tough time for all of us. Everyone has a team that is delivering service at the ground level which needs support from the local people.
Team India will overcome this battle together!