Team Odisha Makes a Tectonic Shift in Ebbing Pandemic Waves

Bhubaneswar: Today, Odisha is fighting a battle against Covid-19 with all its strength and potential. The Odisha Government’s swift and effective action in the initial days and weeks of the pandemic helped it to skirt a disaster on the order of what has tragically unfolded in other states or countries. What lies behind Odisha’s success is the able leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and a team effort by various institutions and Departments closely monitored by Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra and 5T Secretary VK Pandian. As a whole, the team with a common vision to defeat the alien virus started its work. With diverse accomplishments, the different individuals and institutions made it a governmental objective to save the lives of each and every person. The team effort is reflected in minimal fatalities, low infection rates and outstanding recovery rates. In a nut shell, we can say team work delivered the results. We are talking about the teamwork that included various departments of the state government such as Health, Information Technology, Police, Urban Development, Disaster Management, Information and Public Relations, Mission Shakti etc. The Mantra for the State Government in the fight against the pandemic has been “In unison we can fight through”.

One of the crucial Departments in the fight against the pandemic is the Health and Family Welfare Department. Starting from day one, the Health Department has been in the forefront like a shield against the virus. Odisha’s 5T Initiatives, launched just few months before the pandemic arrived in the country, came as a blessing in disguise for the state government in facing the biggest crisis of the century. The already active Health Department immediately swung into action when there were just discussions going on regarding the presence of the virus in India. The first major event was the State Government approved the Odisha COVID-19 Regulations 2020 on April 3rd through the Department of Health and Family Welfare. The government order empowered the Directors of Public Health, Health Services and Medical Education and Training to exercise jurisdiction throughout the state. Even before the announcement of lockdown, Odisha had set up the biggest Covid Hospital in the country at Bhubaneswar with the help of a private hospital. The biggest Covid Hospital had all the state of the art facilities such as Ventilators and ICUs. Importantly, Odisha became the first state in the country to set up a COVID hospital in each district in record time. The healthcare infrastructure in the state has been augmented with sufficient healthcare professionals. Today, Odisha has Eighty Three Dedicated Covid Hospitals with more than ten thousand beds. The number of ICU beds in the state stands at 3300 as of today. Odisha’s success can be attributed to the government’s early intuition for setting up Covid Care Centers in every nook and corner of the state. As of today there are 120 CCCs with more than 17000 beds catering to the needs of the districts. Plasma banks were also set up in different districts to support the treatment of critical patients.

In terms of manpower also the Odisha Government took some practical decisions that helped manage the situation well. In July 2020, the Government of Odisha approved the proposal for temporary engagement of 7000 trained manpower covering 6798 Gram Panchayats. The large cadre of Medical and Paramedic persons included the available unemployed registered ANMs, unemployed registered staff nurses, and pharmacists. The Government also utilized the services of the Final year students of various medical colleges of the state.

In addition to this, the Health and Family Welfare Department is also closely pursuing the vaccination drive in the state. The state has administered more than 77 lakh doses to the citizens till date. With the agenda of minimal causality, the Health Department under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has proved that a perfect coordination prevailed between the various wings such as Medical colleges, Hospitals, Directorate of Health Services, and numerous other institutions. Dynamic officers like Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Pradipta Mahaparta ensured that the team work continued in each and every step taken by the government.

In the fight against the pandemic, Odisha has successfully leveraged Information Technology. Application of Digital technologies for monitoring movement of cases and contacts, managing supply chain management, analyzing the data for future course of action etc helped the government in taking swift decisions. Advanced technologies helped in the identification of containment zones through a geographic information system. Besides, dedicated call centers are established to address public queries. The first major step by the Electronics & Information Technology Department was enabling the migrants to self-register themselves. ePass services ensured the seamless management of incoming migrants and travelers. Sachetak mobile applications and WhatsApp services also utilized to create public awareness and gather real-time information on positive cases. The State COVID dashboard shares real-time information on COVID-19 data, and response measures. A health facility portal has also been created for monitoring the performance of COVID Hospitals. Real time monitoring of the available resources has helped the authorities to well manage the situation. The application of analytical tools and other technologies have helped the state in planning, surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantine and supply chain management of crucial resources.

Added to this, the 5T initiatives have come as a silver lining. Odisha’s thrust on technology driven service delivery approach has helped the state in swiftly implementing various technological tools in responding to Covid-19. The Dashboard of Odisha Covid-19 Portal has all the required information and data that one needs. Real time updation of daily infection numbers, recoveries, test, results, and mortality numbers is helping the planners to predict and strategize the fight against the pandemic. The dynamic data visualization of Odisha Covid-19 dashboard offers both common people and planners interactive charts, graphs, diagrams to understand the situation act accordingly. The status, location, demographics, spread and trend analysis of cases at various levels is helping the administration in practical usage of resources without duplication or wastage. While the data analytics helped much during the first wave of the pandemic, during the second phase it is helping the authorities to plan in advance regarding steps to be taken to contain the spread of the disease. Healthcare resources are today crucial and the digital approach has helped Odisha a lot in simulating them.

Management of health care facilities such as 34 Covid Hospitals having thousands of beds is also difficult without the use of IT. Odisha has made best use of the technology to get real time availability of information regarding availability of beds, ventilators and ICUs. One of the important aspects of Covid-19 management is responding to the calls of common men during these difficult times. Odisha government’s dedicated Call Centers powered by OCAC and other institutions are working round the clock and serving the people by giving important information. The biggest state of the art call center situated in Bhubaneswar with dedicated Toll Free number 104 is catering to thousands of people of the state today. Led by an efficient team leader Manoj Kumar Mishra, Secretary, Electronics and Information Technology, Government of Odisha, the digital approach has been appreciated by many quarters.

The IT-based registration system at border check points (BCPs) as well as pre-registration in the COVID portal for the people wanting to return by road to Odisha has greatly helped the administration to keep a close eye on the movement of the people.

The latest addition to the use of technology in its endeavor is facilitating Covid-test reports in the State Dashboard. People do not need to go anywhere in order to know their test results and the results are only a click away. After undergoing Covid-19 tests, RT PCR or Rapid Antigen, people can know their test result- whether it is positive or negative- by just submitting their registered mobile number or SRF ID in the website.

The role of Police forces in the fight against the pandemic can never be underestimated. As frontline warriors they stood as a sturdy shield between the people and the virus. Without the active participation of the Odisha Police, managing the pandemic could not have been easy. Since the day one of the implementation of the lockdown till date, Odisha Police has done a commendable job. Odisha Police’s efforts in crowd management, implementing social distancing, night patrolling during shut downs, helping migrants reach their homes safely, guarding the borders to prevent the entry of people from high infection states, and helping the needy during the pandemic are some of the major contributions in the fight against the pandemic. DGP Abhay’s frequent visits to all the districts with his colleagues to review the arrangements boosted the moral of the forces. On the ground review of the situation resulted in a robust enforcement mechanism. In one of his statements DGP Abhay said that the Police are meant to check major crimes and nab criminals involved, but detaining people for not wearing masks, making crowd, violating shutdown and lockdown curfew has also become a part of our duty during these pandemic times.

The first step in the fight against Covid-19 was breaking the chain by reducing the movement of people. Lockdowns were enforced strictly so that people remained in homes. Day and night surveillance in all urban and rural areas was difficult without the help of the Police. Also, managing the lakhs of migrants coming from outside the state was the greatest achievement for the state Police Forces. The khaki clad heroes were there on the road anytime. Managing the containment zones also was a challenge for the police as it helped break the transmission of the virus. The Police forces are also actively pursuing the duty of safeguarding the Covid Hospitals and care centers of the state. The humane face of the police forces was well demonstrated when hundreds of police personnel came forward to donate plasma for the critically ill patients. The good samaritans became a kindle of hope for many during the shutdowns and lockdowns by their benevolent deeds such as helping the needy. There were hundreds of stories where the police personnel showed their humanity in the face of the pandemic. The latest and the most important aspect of the police efforts was escorting the Oxygen Tankers with security. Led by senior IPS Officer Y K Jethwa, the team has facilitated the supply of 1415 tankers carrying about 26077 tons of Liquid Medical Oxygen to 16 needy states – a never seen achievement in the country. We are really proud of the Odisha Police that stood as the beacon.

Another Department of the Government of Odisha that is delivering its best during these difficult days is the Information and Public Relations Department. With its proactive efforts, the I&PR Department has been disseminating all the required information to the people as early as possible. The Department has become the bridge between the common people and the government and leadership. Odisha Government appointed Subroto Baghchi as the Chief Spokesperson Covid-19. From day one the thrust of the government has been keeping the people aware of all the developments related to Covid Management in the state. The Department led by senior IAS officer Sanjay Kumar Singh, who is now the BMC Commissioner, has come up several innovative ideas to sensitize the people of the State on various steps taken by the Government to prevent the spread of the virus. The Department, now under the guidance of Bishnupada Sethi, has been playing a dynamic role in the fight against the corona.

At the height of rising cases of COVID-19 during the first wave of pandemic, the I&PR Department made efforts for daily briefing of the situation. Experts are also invited to give their valuable suggestions to the people regarding precautions and steps taken in different situations. Each and every decision of the government relating to the fight against Covid-19 is being communicated through the Department. The Department is also leveraging the usage of social media on dissemination of important information regarding testing, tracking and treatment of patients. Daily briefings by the Department also updated the people on new developments in the country and elsewhere. The Department also used innovative methods such as messaging through Mobile phones on awareness and updates. The full potential of social media such as Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook is being utilized by the government of Odisha.

Odisha’s fight against pandemic would not have been successfull without the contribution and dedication of Mission Shakti. A silent army of more than seven million women did their best at the grassroots level to curb the spread of Coronavirus. Guided by its Secretary Sujata R. Karthikeyan, the members of Mission Shakti are working with full enthusiasm and dedication and taking the leadership in their respective areas be it villages, panchayats or blocks. They are like a formidable force and actively participated in creating awareness regarding social distancing, hygiene, use of masks and maintaining lockdown guidelines.

At the district levels, the Collectors stood in the forefront in the fight against the pandemic. Thanks to their administrative acumen, all the strategies of the government could be implemented on the ground. Some of the Collectors also contributed with their out of box solutions to the local issues. With close coordination with ground level workers, the district collectors could break the chain. They are instrumental also in sustaining the livelihoods of millions in the rural and semi urban areas.

In the urban pockets of the State, where the pandemic has hit hard, the onus has been on the Municipal Commissioners. In cities like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Rourkela, the Commissioners of the Municipalities had the role of the real fighters. They became the face of the government machinery on ground. Starting from sanitization of affected areas to imposing containments, they had the responsibility to keep people safe. Most of the people affected in the cities stayed in Covid Hospitals managed by the Municipalities and we could find little criticism against them. They had to do their duty taking it as a challenge. The team Odisha that is fighting the pandemic is not complete without their efforts.

Odisha has successfully managed the natural disasters despite the COVID-19 challenges. The office of SRC led by Pradeep Kumar Jena has ensured the success.

As part of the team, each and every department official is contributing his/her best to the effort. The perfect coordination could be achieved only just because they have a common agenda that is to save lives and give succor to the needy. Team Odisha under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik has proved that come any calamity or pandemic, united efforts will always triumph. Above all, the cooperation of the four and half crore people of the state cannot be ignored in this biggest fight of the century. Without their support, it would have been difficult to think of success. Their confidence on the leadership of Naveen Patnaik is legion.

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