Gautam Das and family are camping on this Brahmaputra river embankment for a week, ever since their village at Palashbari got flooded. The waters have receded now. But this 45-year-old wage labourer laments that the government relief has come late to his village that is just 30 km away from capital Guwahati.
“We are facing problem about food, since due to previous lockdown our work is totally off… In the last flood even NGOs came and helped us with food but this time no one came. I heard that they are giving food today,” Mr Das told NDTV.
When relief did arrive, it was to long queues of people facing double trouble – the floods and COVID-19. For the government too, it is an unprecedented challenge.
In Assam, where floods have affected over 35 lakh people, five died on Friday, taking the fatalities to 76. The floods came at a time when the state saw the highest single-day spike of 1,218 coronavirus cases on Friday.
The state has logged over 21,000 positive cases and there have been 51 deaths. It is a dual challenge for the government and taking this fight head-on are the frontline government functionaries, many of them doubling up as COVID-19 warriors and flood relief managers.
At the relief centre, it is non-stop multitasking for Kamrup Rural’s Additional Deputy Commissioner and her team of around 30. All of them have become COVID-19 warriors and flood relief managers rolled into one.
“All these days we have been busy in COVID-19 duties of screening, quarantining people and also we run a COVID-19 care centre in the area at the Patanjali facility, and now managing floods where there are many protocols and particularly ensuring social distancing and wearing mask is a difficult task,” Rashmi Baruah Gogoi, ADC, Kamrup Rural, told NDTV.
She is the circle officer in charge of Palashbari and has been looking after the flood affected area. She is also the in-charge of the COVID-19 care centre in the area.
What was strikingly visible was that Assam Police have deployed a skeletal force here to ensure social distancing. Over 700 policemen have tested positive along with several frontline workers.
For this team, the next stop, a COVID-19 care centre for asymptomatic positive patients, is 8 km away. It is a Herculean effort being put in round-the-clock in one district after another.
“Obviously, balancing is difficult but not that we cannot do. In fact we are doing it, but certain factors are getting accentuated since there is still a lockdown in Guwahati and a lot of relief material is also coming from Guwahati,” Kailash Kartik N, Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup Rural district, told NDTV.