Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Story Behind Himachal’s Vaccination Success: What Health Workers Told PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with healthcare workers and beneficiaries of the Covid vaccination programme in Himachal Pradesh through a video conference.

The Story Behind Himachal’s Vaccination Success: What Health Workers Told PM Modi
Nirma Devi, the lone ASHA worker at Malana village. File Photo

The 30-yr old Nirma Devi, an ASHA worker, who was instrumental in motivating natives of Malana - known as one of the world’s ancient villages in Himachal’s Kullu district- credits her success in Covid vaccination in the area to ‘Jamdagni Rishi’ or Jamlu Devta, the most powerful deity of the regions. Interacting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on virtual platform on Monday, she shared her real-time experiences along with other healthcare workers and beneficiaries of the Covid vaccination programme in the state.

“In Malana, it’s Jamdagni devta which decides everything. No outside rules or orders of the local administration prevails in Malana unless the devta gives his nod. This happened in the case of vaccination also. It was only after Devta (local God) gave his consent, the vaccination started in Malana,” she narrated to Prime Minister Modi.

“Yes, yes, I have been to Malana and can understand how deity and devta culture and religious faith influence the lives and beliefs of locals, not alone Malana but whole of Kullu valley. But, how did vaccination doses reach such a far flung and remote region? Modi asked.

Nirma replied, “Sir, medical teams and local administration used spans (jhulas or conventional ropways) to transport vaccine. It takes six hours to reach the village from the road climbing steep, rocky terrain.”

A clearer insight about 100- percent vaccination success in the tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti, which remains snow-bound, came from a Buddhist leader Nawang Upashak, who is head of Shashur monastery at Keylong.

Sharing his experience with the Prime Minister, he admitted that in this Buddhist dominant district the vaccination hesitancy melted down when Tibetan Spiritual leader Dalai Lama himself got vaccinated at Dharamshala. His photographs and videos of the jab were shown to the tribals (men and women) in Lahaul and Spiti valleys. This was really a great motivation.

Upashak recalled that the monasteries (gompas) made special appeals to local population to get vaccinated and in some villages the monks travelled with medical teams to accomplish the task. Lahaul Spiti had achieved 100 per cent vaccination much ahead of the state.

Dr Rahul, a doctor hailing from Kutch in Gujarat became a star of the Prime Minister’s vaccine interaction when he informed that despite extreme cold conditions, heavy snow, no roads and zero internet/phone connectivity, Dodra Kawar, a highly remote pocket in Shimla district, achieved 100 percent success.

“Coming from the deserts of Kutch, how did you manage to work at the farthest and backward area of Dodra-Kawar, which remains under heavy snow for most part of the year?” Modi asked.

“I am extremely happy to work in the snow-bound mountains. It’s because I was fascinated by the mountains, snow and the people. I brought my parents also here for a trip who got scared of the difficult roads and hill tracks here. But, I am enjoying and serving here for the past two and a half years with no complaints” Dr Rahul said.

About managing vaccination, he said the teams had to travel a foot journey of six to seven kms (one way) to reach villages. There is no phone or internet connectivity. So, we took help of health workers at Rohru –which is a Sub-Divisional headquarter having internet facility to feed data of the eligible persons, their names, age and aadhaar details.

Local volunteers helped to translate and interact with villagers at Dodra-Kawar. They engaged with the locals and motivated them for vaccination.

Earlier Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur informed the Prime Minister that the state has fixed a target of November 30 to complete the second dose of vaccination. He thanked Modi for helping the state and providing “difficult quantities” of vaccine doses to maintain the supply line perfect.

A record 55.43 lakh persons have been vaccinated with the first dose and another one-third i.e. 18.16 lakh have been given second dose. The state has a record zero wastage, the chief minister said.