- B A Ramna recovered from COVID-19 in self-isolation at home
- COVID-19 made me even more compassionate towards people: B.A. Ramna
- He initially felt discriminated against in his locality because of his job
New Delhi: Bichhaya Angat Ramna is one the many unsung heroes of this fight against one of the worst pandemics to hit the world in a century. This 40-year-old from Assam dons many hats. He is a loving father of two young children, a caring husband, a diligent employee who is showing courage on a daily basis to be on the frontlines of the war against Coronavirus. He is now also a COVID survivor. Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Assam, Bichhaya Angat Ramna, a sanitation worker at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) was transferred from the laboratory to emergency wards that were set up as COVID wards to meet the increased requirement of hospital cleaners in these wards.
While speaking with NDTV, Mr. Ramna said that for him and his fellow hospital cleaners, doing their work with utmost sincerity is extremely important for the safety of not only the patients but also other hospital staff members like nurses, ward boys and doctors. He said,
Sanitation workers are nearly at the bottom of the hierarchy of a hospital because of which sometimes their contribution in the fight against COVID-19 goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. This is majorly because we have no professional training but I don’t know how can a hospital function even for one day without its cleaning staff keeping it safe for everybody.
His job entails cleaning and disinfecting the rooms and picking up the garbage and ensuring the safety of the patients. After almost six months of being on COVID-19 duty, Mr. Ramna got infected with coronavirus himself. While the disease brought temporary disruptions in his life and work, Mr. Ramna did not lose hope as he defeated the virus and resumed his COVID duties with even greater zeal.
Talking about contracting the infection, treatment and post-recovery period, Mr. Ramna said that he followed safety measures on duty but he was mentally prepared about catching the virus as he works in a high-risk setting for 7-8 hours daily. He started experiencing the symptoms of the disease himself and on August 26, he tested positive. By September 8, he tested negative and decided to resume COVID duty at the hospital from September 12. He said,
I have always followed precautionary measures on the duty. But because of the work we do, there are high chances of getting infected. We not only clean the rooms and empty dustbins; we also segregate the garbage with hands and prepare it for disposing of to a bio-medical waste treatment plant. During this, we deal with blood, syringes, medicine packets, masks, gloves and all sorts of medical waste which has high probability of being contaminated.
About his experience of fighting COVID-19, Mr. Ramna said, that he decided to stay in home isolation because he wanted to remain near his family during recovery. He said,
My home is quite far from the hospital and I have only my wife and two children here, in Guwahati. So I decided to stay at home in self-isolation. I received medication from a doctor at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital during this period. It was a very difficult period, especially because even though we have two rooms in our house out of which I occupied one during the infection, I had to share the bathroom with my family as we have only one bathroom. Therefore, after every use, I had to clean the whole bathroom and then my wife used to clean it again before she or my children used it. This is how we ensured that my wife and children don’t get infected because of me. My daughter is 13-year-old and my son is 4-year-old. It was hard not to hug them or spend time with them during self-isolation.
B. Sravanthi, 36-year-old, wife of Mr. Ramna shared with NDTV that it was initially difficult for her to see her husband go to the hospital every day while other people in the locality stayed safe at home during the nation-wide lockdown. However, gradually she accepted that there was no other option but to support her husband which included keeping herself and her children safe. She said,
Every day when he comes back from work, he removes and washes his clothes, takes a bath and puts on fresh clothes before entering the house. I am very proud of my husband and the work he does. During his illness, I prepared soup every day so that he gets lots of nutrition. Even now, I make sure he eats plenty of fruits and vegetables so that he becomes strong again.
While talking about the stigma attached to his work as a sanitation worker, Mr. Ramna said that discrimination was not something unknown to him, however, during the initial days of the pandemic, he felt exceptionally uncomfortable while buying groceries at nearby shops because of the unpleasant glances of his neighbours. Things are much better now, he said. Mr. Ramna added,
It seems like the pandemic has changed people. It has definitely made me more empathetic towards others. Every day I see such worried faces at work, I feel that a health emergency like this one, should be considered an opportunity for the people to remove all kinds of social barriers and help each other.
Acknowledging the contribution of Mr. Ramna in the State’s fight against COVID-19, Pomi Baruah, the officer-on-special duty (OSD) at Assam’s National Health Mission said,
Sanitation workers are at the frontline, selflessly fighting the pandemic. Their role is extremely important.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.