Most challenging situation, says IAS officer leading Pune’s Covid-19 fight
Rubal Agarwal says the battle against Covid-19 is the most challenging situation in her life but is confident of winning the battle.Updated: May 04, 2020, 16:23 IST
Her seven-year-old son was upset in the early days of the lockdown that she was stepping out for duty every day even though she was neither a doctor nor a police officer.
“Why are you going to the office daily?” he asked her one day. On her return that evening, Pune’s additional municipal commissioner Rubal Agarwal was greeted by her son Rishiv and husband, with welcome cards and her favourite delicacies.
This is one of the delightful anecdotes that the IAS officer recounted in an interview to HT as she spoke of her role in bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control in Pune. Agarwal not only supervises the health department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) bus is also chief executive officer (CEO) of Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL),
With Pune being one of the prominent Covid-19 hotspots in the country, second only to Mumbai in Maharashtra, the PMC with its staff of 15,000 people is in the forefront of the city’s response to the pandemic.
Till Sunday evening, Pune had recorded 1,283 Covid-19 cases out of which 101 have died, 1,152 are active cases while 131 have recovered.
“All our 42 departments are working round-the-clock to provide back-up services, apart from our medical teams, engineers and clerical staff,” said Agarwal.
A ‘Command Control War Room’ has been established at the Smart City office to provide the PMC with a focused approach. A lot of emphasis is placed on generating and managing data to ensure areas where maximum efforts are needed, said Agarwal.
“We are maximising our efforts in those areas from where the maximum number of positive cases are emerging and undertaking extensive surveys and testing. This is the reason why Pune has started getting more positive patients this week,” she said.
Her day starts at 6 am and her morning exercise regimen consists mainly of Suryanamaskar. Some amount of team co-ordination happens from home and then she steps out for work. Even after she returns home in the evening, work continues over the phone right till midnight given the fast-changing scenario on the Covid-19 front.
As the Smart City head, she is responsible for updated figures of Covid-19 positive patients, number of deaths and the extent of surveys conducted which is communicated to all the agencies concerned.
With the health department under her charge, she needs to regularly review the available manpower and allocate staff as and where required. Her priorities include a review of contact tracing of positive patients and ensuring that quarantined people are taken care of in terms of food and medical attention.
“I am also required to visit hospitals dedicated to Covid-19,” said Agarwal, pointing out that as the number of positive patients was increasing in Pune city, the number of quarantine facilities and isolation beds was being increased.
She wears a mask, gloves and PPE (personal protective equipment) while visiting hospitals. Her main concern is to ensure that there is no sharp spike of new cases.
“From where would I bring additional medical staff to handle the situation if it worsens?” she asks.
“This is undoubtedly the most challenging situation in my entire service and in my life; but I am confident we will win this fight against Covid-19,” she says with a sense of purpose. An IAS officer of the 2008 batch, she has worked previously as the Zilla Parishad Chief executive officer and District collector at Jalgaon and as CEO of the Shirdi Sai Baba temple trust.
Agarwal is grateful to the unstinted support of her family, municipal commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad, civic officials and staff and the district administration.
While appreciating the work done by the doctors, nurses and health workers who are at the forefront of this battle, Agarwal says countless people working in the other departments and providing back-up support also deserve applause. These are the people who are working silently and organising the food, preparing hospitals and quarantine centres, going on the field for surveys, creating and managing shelter homes for migrant labourers and coordinating with corporates for assistance, she said.