Angkita Dutta, 32, a Youth Congress leader from Assam, is under home quarantine in Guwahati. She met an interesting visitor knocking on her door on Wednesday.
“It was incredible to see Assam junior health minister at our door. I was surprised. He came without any notice to check how I was doing during home quarantine,” Ms Dutta told NDTV over phone.
“We may be poles apart in politics, but when ministers are going out door to door, we must admit the way Assam is managing to check the spread of coronavirus in the community through strict quarantine, should be a model for others,” said the Youth Congress leader who returned from Delhi after domestic flights resumed.
The minister who visited her house, Pijush Hazarika, 42, was on a surprise visit to different areas in Guwahati to check on those who have been put in home quarantine.
While Assam’s model of checking the COVID-19 spike through its policy of screening, testing and strict quarantine for all who are returning back to the state, is winning praise, leading from the front is Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
But away from the media glare is junior minister Hazarika, who has been a quick, fast and silent action-taken of Mr Sarma’s every plan.
“Earlier, I was quarantined in Delhi since I had returned from the US. While the situation in Delhi and Assam can’t be compared, I have not seen too many ministers exposing themselves to the public,” Ms Dutta said.
Like her, over 3,500 people have been quarantined in Guwahati alone, while across Assam over 30,000 are in institutional quarantine, government sources said.
“Our surveillance teams with the help of the police keep checking on people in home quarantine. We have given financial assistance to those who need it even during quarantine. Today, our junior minister made a sudden visit to random people under home quarantine. This helps keep our officials on their toes,” said a senior official in the health department.
Health department sources said Mr Hazarika is a key factor in Mr Sarma’s plans in fighting the pandemic. He has spent several “sleepless” nights to ensure seamless execution of the strategies made by Mr Sarma, health department sources said.
“While many would see him accompanying Sarma to hospital, quarantine centres, he is far beyond a deputy. Very silently he keeps working from early morning till late night, coordinating with districts and the state capital, to make sure every bit of the plan laid out by Mr Sarma is executed… He doesn’t retire for the day till he sends his report to Mr Sarma on WhatsApp,” the senior official said.
Mr Hazarika is seen as wanting to keep a low profile. On Wednesday, however, he tweeted photos of his “surprise” visit to people in home quarantine.
Today I inspected the houses of people who are in home quarantine in Guwahati, to ensure that home quarantine protocols are being strictly followed.#FightAgainstCorona#homequarantinepic.twitter.com/s0SVFLN4v0
— Pijush Hazarika (@Pijush_hazarika) June 3, 2020
“My idea was to check if protocols are maintained in home quarantine. For us quarantine is the only effective way to avoid community transmission. I am glad that I see the thing is working fine on ground,” Mr Hazarika told NDTV.
“As a junior minister I carry out the work delegated to me by Mr Sarma. It’s my duty as a minister. These people have returned and have struggled a lot in the metros where the COVID-19 situation is grim. People are our masters. We have to go to their doorstep. Mr Sarma’s leadership has been a great inspiration for all of us in the health department. It has been a great learning experience,” Mr Hazarika said.
Some doctors have praised the junior minister’s home visit. “This will instil confidence among health workers who have been at the forefront for months. It’s an example of leadership without making much noise about it,” said Dr Bhaskar Papukan Gogoi, a doctor and social worker from Dibrugarh.