DTE Impact: COVID-19 coverage spurs action in Odisha's Nuapada

DTE’s reportage not only made the Nuapada administration spruce up healthcare facilities but also led to expatriate Odias in Japan sending help

By Ajit Panda
Published: Wednesday 09 June 2021
A COVID-19 testing camp at Michhapali GP, Nuapada. Photo: @DM_Nuapada / Twitter__

Down To Earth (DTE)'s May 3 report on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in Odisha’s Nuapada district has spurred the district administration into action. Even the Odia community in Japan has stepped up to improve healthcare in this district bordering Chhattisgarh.

Initially, the Nuapada district administration denied the DTE report’s findings of there being a shortage of oxygen on the ground and deaths happening as a result.

It tweeted:

Some unverified news reports and social media propaganda are being peddled regarding a lack of oxygen supply at the district COVID-19 Hospital at Nuapada. There is sufficient oxygen stock in the district & supply is monitored in real time.

It, however, did initiate steps to set things right. A meeting of the concerned officials was held by the district administration to review the situation at the Covid Hospital at Nuapada.

CCTV cameras were fitted inside the hospital to monitor the situation. A 24-hour presence of doctors inside the COVID-19 wards was ensured and every district level officer was assigned with one responsibility each, such as availability of oxygen cylinders, food supply etc.

The decline of deaths in the hospital after this intervention was remarkable — from 7-8 deaths per day to 3-4. 

Odias in Japan

The other significant impact of the story was that it caught the attention of expatriate Odias in Japan, who wanted to contribute 10 oxygen concentrators to Nuapada district to meet the needs of patients.

Chaudhury Rudra Charan Mohanty, who works with the United Nations in Japan, contacted DTE and wanted to know whether something could be done for Nuapada.

On DTE’s advice, Mohanty and the Odisha Community, Japan (OCJ) headed by Gyanindra Mishra got in touch with the Mukta Bichar Manch (MBM), Khariar.

Through discussions, the idea of oxygen concentrators came up. It was a pleasant surprise for MBM as well as the people of Khariar.

Since it involved international movement of goods, there were roadblocks on the way. The MBM first tried to understand how it worked. The Odisha State Medical Corporation Ltd issues two certificates for tax exemption, on the basis of which, the customs clearance was made.

The managing director of the corporation, Yamini Sarangi and Hrusikesh Mishra, both nodal officers, were prompt in issuing exemption certificates.

However, the next hurdle faced by MBM was difficulties on the customs front. The customs department at New Delhi was of the opinion that the importing organisation would have to pay the customs duty of 12 per cent.

MBM, being a people’s forum running some humanitarian activities, was not in a position to pay this amount which came to about $810.

As a consequence, customs clearance was denied at Delhi and the application of MBM was rejected. B Bhattacharya, principal chief commissioner of customs and central excise (Rtd) advised that the concentrators should be sent to Kolkata and requested the officials there to release the goods.

The team of officers at Calcutta Customs proved most cooperative and issued customs clearance. The carriers, FedEx, were at their professional best in fast tracking the shipment. They finally delivered the shipment at Raipur at their own cost.

Similarly, the customs clearing agents helped MBM too. Ultimately, the shipment arrived at Raipur and then at Khariar with the help of the customs team at Raipur. The customs officer at Raipur offered to bear the cost of local transport from Raipur to Khariar.

The concentrators were inaugurated in a formal meeting through webinar. Aditya Padhi, former chief secretary of Odisha addressed the occasion.

“It was a team effort of the highest order which saw everything through. We need to thank our donors and all concerned. It was therefore a combined function to express our thanks and to formally inaugurate the concentrators,” Shreekant Chatterjee, convenor of the MBM, said.

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