- COVID warrior Ashok Kurmi has sanitised over 180 bus stops in Mumbai
- As Santa Claus, Mr Kurmi has gifted over 700 masks to children
- Mr Kurmi is also creating awareness about COVID precautionary measures
New Delhi: Bells may not jingle all that much this Christmas as fun times are COVID hit. But experts insist that for a Merry Christmas this year, there should be no let-up in wearing a face mask, practising social distancing and hand hygiene – at all times. It is suggested to limit gatherings and avoid social meetings. To reiterate the message and encourage COVID appropriate behaviour among people, 34-year-old Ashok Kurmi from Mumbai has slipped into the role of Santa Claus.
Dressed as Santa Claus, with a long white beard, a Santa cap, a mask on his face and sanitiser spray machine on his back, Ashok Kurmi is carrying out sanitisation drive; distributing face masks among people; making social distancing boxes at bus stops to promote physical distancing in public places.
Talking to NDTV about the idea behind the initiative, Mr Kurmi who is also the president of Sion Friends Circle, a community based group said,
Every year on Christmas, I dress up as Santa Claus and distribute chocolates and toys among under privileged children. However, this year, the situation is different and needs public participation when it comes to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, I decided to create awareness among people and sanitise public places.
Mr Kurmi started the 10 day sanitisation and masks distribution drive on December 13 and has so far sanitised over 180 bus stops, more than 150 BEST buses, auto rickshaws, taxis and other public transport vehicles.
Talking about the locations he is covering in Mumbai, Mr Kurmi said,
My focus is on densely populated areas where there is a likelihood of transmission of the virus. Also, public places like a bus stop and public transport witness huge footfall with people coming from varied places so they are being sanitised in and out. To name a few, I have covered, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Sion, Matunga, and Wadala.
Mr Kurmi has been working in a pharmaceutical company for 14 years and has been conducting sanitisation drives along with his full-time job. He said that as part of the new normal, like most people he is also working from home that gives him extra time to go out and do something for the society.
Along with this, Mr Kurmi also visited slums to gift face masks and sanitisers to children and educate them and their families on the importance of wearing a face mask and maintaining good hygiene. In the last five days, he has distributed over 700 masks.
Giving out the reason behind dressing up as Santa Claus, Mr Kurmi said,
Santa Claus is a symbol of positivity and hope. Children look forward to Christmas and Santa Claus as he gets them gifts. If Santa Claus will ask children to follow three basic COVID precautionary measures, there is a higher chance that children will listen to him and follow the advice.
Mr Kurmi informed that he along with other volunteers at Sion Friends Circle have been doing their bit during the COVID-19 pandemic by sanitising houses, helping migrant workers with essentials, and providing study material to children who cannot access online classes.
Before signing off, Mr Kurmi explained what motivates him to step out of the house while people are trying to stay at home and avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19. He said,
It’s for the safety of the public we are on the street and the only thought is that the Coronavirus pandemic is not over yet. We still need to follow three simple rules suggested by the government – social distancing, use of a mask, and hand washing – and encourage others to do the same.
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.