The world came to a pause, but for some, it was not just busier than ever, but riskier than ever. Yes, while the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic relentlessly marched across the globe, there were some individuals who relentlessly walked the extra mile to battle this crisis. From the global bodies to the central and state governments to the frontline warriors, their unparalleled efforts to combat the situation were highly commendable.
Day by day, the COVID-19 pandemic conquered more and more countries with such momentum that it left me in anxiety as to what is happening to the world. As a millennial, I have never experienced such a grave situation in my entire lifetime. It was agonizing to learn that every day the death rates were increasing at an incremental rate and members of the families, in some cases even bread winners, were left disbanded.
At that moment it dawned upon me how dreadful the situation was and how grateful we were to be equipped with all the facilities in the comfort of our homes. I wished I could provide my support in some manner to manage this crisis. I imagined, had I been a medical professional I could have contributed in some way or the other. Hailing from finance domain, little to no scope existed for me to help on the frontline, and hence, like the majority of us – volunteering was another wishful thought.
By sheer serendipity, while browsing across social networking websites, I noticed a tweet from Mr. Uddhav Thackeray (#CovidYoddha) inviting volunteers to assist the Maharashtra government in their efforts to manage public health. I clicked on the application form and as expected, I saw the requirements were primarily for medical professionals, communication specialists, tech experts and public health administration professionals. Apart from this, there was a category for ‘Other’ volunteers.
I spent a few minutes introspecting how can I help and then realized that my extensive experience (7 years in Big Four consulting) of project management, data management, working at top speed under high-pressure situations and qualitative reporting can help them in these pressing times and added it in my application.
After a few days, they reached out to me saying that the local ward government administrative office needs my help for data management and reporting. At that moment, I was in a dilemma regarding the ingenuity of the call and was unable to decide whether this was an opportunity to make a difference or was this just another scam call? Occupational hazard, I must say, of being a Fraud Investigator.
Well, after analyzing and conducting some checks, I realized that it was a genuine call and immediately joined the War-Room team at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (RS Ward). I was very overwhelmed to have received this opportunity and my excitement level to do my bit had reached the zenith. The war-room team comprised of our frontline commandos in this pandemic that were Doctors, Nurses, Senior public health administration staff, travel and logistics support members, and other members of the BMC staff.
The War-room team was responsible for appropriate management of Covid-19 positive cases, contact tracing, containment and quarantine, running large scale screening tests in suspected areas, quarantine center capacity and facility management, test kits requisitions among others.
On day one, I was introduced to the work I would be doing and was asked to confirm if I would be available for a few days to ensure continuity of resources and plan the further course of action. At that moment, I was unequivocal about my answer and immediately said a ‘Yes’. This was my opportunity to give back to the community in some form. Without further ado, I applied for personal leave from my employer to give my full support to this initiative.
In a couple of days, I was hooked and working on massive data of patients, contact tracing, capacity utilization of quarantine centers and others. My key responsibility was to put together unstructured data that we received from various places in a format that we could put to use and report the numbers to the BMC HQ on a daily basis.
It was stressful but fulfilling and an enriching experience. I was fully aware what was at stake, any gaps in my work would lead to a possibility of a patient not being tested or detected at the right time or may lead to inadequate capacity utilization at quarantine centers.
The silver lining in the toil was when the personnel heading the war-room was appreciated by the CM’s office for the quality and speed of information put through by the ward. Now, the responsibility of timely and accurate information reporting was on my shoulders and it was a job well done as other wards started reaching out to learn and seek information on best practices for data management followed by us.
Amidst this chaos, I conversed with a lot of members of the war-room and realized how empathetic they were of the people’s problems. Some of the staff were Civil or Electrical engineers but were working in public health support – Crisis makes us adapt, learn and grow!
Most of the war room team members for safety reasons wanted to go back to their respective hometowns or families of the staff members were apprehensive about them going to work every day but these ‘Warriors’ (in the true form) did not budge and were at it relentlessly and tirelessly. To add to this, the government ordered a freeze on Dearness Allowance (DA) for its staff – DA is an allowance paid to government staff to mitigate impact of inflation.
With all these on their minds, I will never forget a statement by a war-room member – “Hum nahi karenge toh kaun karega” (Translated – If we don’t do it, then who else will?)
Fighting all of these adverse situations, these people took up the challenge head-on. A sincere gratitude and appreciation for the people working for our well-being and safety. In a true sense this crisis has brought the whole world together to effectively become one and fight against a common enemy ‘Covid-19’.
Thank you and stay safe.
“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”
About Rishi Doshi, CFA
Rishi works with KPMG’s Risk Consulting Practice with an expertise in financial fraud investigations. A CA and CFA charterholder by qualification, he has 8+ years of work experience and is a passionate consumer rights activist. Apart from a penchant for societal reforms, Rishi loves to travel, dance, swim, play badminton and cook.