Containment zones to hunger centres, 13k volunteers lend Delhi a helping hand
Delhi’s chief secretary Vijay Dev said, “In the next few days, we are looking forward to more volunteers joining our ranks as the city resumes normalcy with the functioning of business, commerce and public transport.”Updated: May 25, 2020 01:01 IST
In November 2019, 26-year-old Dheeraj Kapoor and 33-year-old Naveen Kumar were new civil defence volunteer recruits deployed by the Delhi government at a busy traffic intersection in south Delhi. They were there to ensure that private vehicles with odd and even registration numbers ply on alternate dates adhering to the government’s fortnight-long road space rationing strategy.
However, as the authorities eased the restrictions of the nationwide lockdown, implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), with time, the city police reduced its deployment on Covid-19 duty in a phased manner and returned to regular law and order duties. This led to the district administration relying more on civil defence volunteers since May 4, remarked several district magistrates that HT spoke to. There are 13,000 active volunteers on duty. The government needs at least 10,000 more volunteers immediately and at least 25,000 more in the next few months as businesses, commercial activities and public transport resume operations, and the number of positive cases continues to spike, senior government officials said on condition of anonymity.
Currently, Kapoor works full-time in one of the 87 Covid-19 containment zones in the city – from manning barricades that seal the area to ensuring doorstep delivery of essential goods. Kumar works in one of the 1,800-odd hunger centres run by the city government, which feeds around 500 people twice a day.
“In the last few months, I have witnessed quite an unexpected journey – from manning vehicles on odd-even days and volunteering for election duty to helping victims during the north-east Delhi riots and now Covid-19 management,” Kapoor said over the telephone.
“From manning barricades in containment zones and providing essential goods to the residents of sealed areas to distributing ration and cooked meals at hunger centres, helping the police maintain law and order, and ensuring social distancing at railway stations and liquor shops, civil defence volunteers in Delhi have been playing a major role since the day the nationwide lockdown was imposed (March 25),” Delhi’s revenue minister Kailash Gahlot said.
Delhi’s chief secretary Vijay Dev said, “In the next few days, we are looking forward to more volunteers joining our ranks as the city resumes normalcy with the functioning of business, commerce and public transport.”
There are almost 46,000 volunteers registered with the Delhi government, according to a senior official with the revenue department. They are not bound by an employment contract and are entitled to emolument of around ₹730 for a day’s work when engaged in duty, he said.
“Of the 46,000, around 13,000 are active volunteers. Others have not reported for a long time. We have deployed them in containment zones, food distribution centres, screening centres, shelter homes, quarantine centres, etc.,” the official in charge of the civil defence registration process said, requesting anonymity. However, a total of 25,000 volunteers are needed for effective Covid-19 management, he added.
The official said that civil defence volunteers are needed throughout the year and the government occasionally publishes advertisements in newspapers to inform potential volunteers of that. The minimum age requirement is 18 years and there is no bar on the maximum age.
Delhi currently has a sanctioned strength of 237,938 civil defence volunteers, according to records of the Union home ministry.The recruitment official in Delhi government said, “To ensure social distancing, especially in public transport, the government plans to deploy more volunteers. We need at least 25,000 volunteers in the next few months as more businesses, commercial activities and public transport are expected to further restart operations.”
According to Jugal Kishore, the head of the community medicines department in Safdarjung Hospital, “Community participation plays an important role in public health initiatives. It can help change perception and aid in the effective implementation of rules and regulations for the welfare of the community if the volunteers are trained well.”