Inspection round: Agrawal at a corona ward in Vadodara. Photo Nafees Khan
When the first COVID-19 case surfaced in Vadodara on March 24, collector Shalini Agrawal immediately chalked out a strategy to deal with the emergency situation. And leakproof containment emerged as an integral part of the district administration’s strategy.
On April 4, when a COVID-19 case was discovered in Ikhar village in the bordering Bharuch district, she sealed eight neighbouring villages in the district. The district administration ensured that essential items were home-delivered to the villagers. The strategy paid off as these villages have been Covid-free.
The three areas of Vadodara city which first saw positive cases, Nagarwada, Saiyadwada and Tandalja, were also sealed and designated red zones. Door-to-door screening was done, during which Agrawal also started random sampling for COVID-19 cases, the first time in Gujarat. For this, she had a mobile ambulance with a team of two doctors and two nurses accompanying the health officials. As many as 75 asymptomatic cases were discovered. They were moved to a special quarantine facility created at the Ebrahim Bawany Industrial Training Institute on the city’s outskirts. Vadodara has 500 beds for COVID-19 patients with another 500 beds are coming up by next week. There is quarantine facility of 2,500 beds with provisions being made for another 2,500. The authorities have 156 ventilators.
Agrawal has also been taking measures to support the marginalised classes during the lockdown. Around 35,000 people without ration cards in the district, mostly migrant labour, have been brought under the Gujarat Anna Brahma Yojana, so that they are eligible for free rations. She also supervised the distribution of rations to 1.2 million people who were not covered under the National Food Security Act.
Vadodara has opened 4,500 of the 9,000 big and medium industrial units in rural areas. Some 45,000 workers have reported for duty so far. Agrawal’s office has put out a fixed format online where units can apply for permission to open with an undertaking that they will adhere to all social distancing rules. Economic activity in areas under the Vadodara Municipal corporation will take time to start.
For the people of Vadodara, Agrawal’s proactive measures are no surprise. The 2005 batch IAS officer had earlier won recognition as the best district collector and best district development officer under the Gujarat government. Meanwhile, more good news, 45 COVID-19 patients who were discharged from the quarantine centre at the technical institute have said they’ll donate blood for plasma therapy to help critical patients.