This interview was conducted as a part of a research study funded by Azim Premji University under the COVID-19 Research Funding Programme 2020. The study delves into the experiences of frontline workers in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was conducted with an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife in Jaipur, Rajasthan, on 12 January 2021 in Hindi and has been translated.
Q: During the past nine months, you have been involved with COVID-related work. Can you give a brief overview of what your COVID-19 pandemic and non-pandemic duties were?
Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM): We were put on a “Corona Warrior” task force, and my work was primarily to do door-to-door surveys to check if anyone showed symptoms. I would also monitor people arriving in the village to see if they had any symptoms and send them to self-isolate. I would check up on them every 2–3 days to see any development of symptoms.
My entire area has a population of 6,200 people, so I also had the responsibility of spreading awareness about the COVID-19 virus. No one knew what this virus was, and no one expected it to reach us. People thought it would stay as something we hear about in the news or read in the newspaper, but as Frontline Workers who knew about the seriousness of this virus, we were also given the responsibility to tell people about it and answer any questions of theirs in utmost detail.
Throughout this phase, my normal tasks of immunisations were paused. It was only in May, when the restrictions weren’t as strict, that we resumed with immunisations while following protocols such as using sanitisers, masks and social distancing.
Q: What was your relationship with other Frontline Workers (ANMs, AWWs and ASHAs)/other Corona Warriors in your area post the pandemic? For instance, how often do you speak with each other, and what coordination have you been doing?
ANM: There is always coordination among us FLWs. We — ANMs and ASHAs — do the survey together; we figure out how to divide the work, specifically linked to door-to-door surveys. Even outside of work, we are always in touch. We talk about the challenges we face.
We’re always there for each other. Whenever it’s late in the evening and we still have homes to survey, we accompany one another so that no one has to travel alone. It is tough to go into people’s houses, especially late in the evening, so we stand as each other’s support system and help out whenever possible.
Q: Have there been challenges to carrying out your work?
ANM: It is very demotivating when people do not listen to our advice or break the rules. So many times, we send people messages, videos, show them posters to make them aware of the rules and protocols to be followed during the pandemic, but they choose to ignore it.
A lot of people also refused to listen to us and misbehaved. This one time, a visitor misbehaved with me and refused to isolate me. I tried reaching out to my supervisor for help, but that was of no use. I was instead asked to report to the Panchayat, so I first sought help from the police and then reported the matter to the Panchayat.
I have not faced many challenges. Transport, for instance, has never been a problem. I have a car, so I use that for travelling everywhere. I have not received reimbursements for fuel. Even for pandemic-related work, I got incentives for roughly 2–3 months, but nothing after that.
The urgency of this work, though, has been a major challenge. It requires us to be on our feet all the time and be responsive over texts and calls throughout the day.
The months of March and April 2020 were the toughest because people weren’t aware that we were supposed to check on them. They used to say mean things to us and not allow us into their houses. They used to think that since we keep roaming here and there; we were also infected with the virus. They used to think of us as untouchables.
Workload has also increased a lot. Earlier, for instance, if people had common cold and cough symptoms, we would ask people to take care of it themselves. But now, even for such small things, we advise people to come to the Primary Health Centre and get checked. So there is an increase in the health issues we also treat.
Doing work is also tougher because we have to take more precautions like using masks, sanitisers and wearing gloves. I am also more than 50-years-old, so I get breathless and tired very quickly. Keeping a mask on turns out to be a difficult problem.
Q. How did you overcome the challenges that you faced?
ANM: It is my responsibility to do this work. I have been in this role for 32 years, doing the same work every day. I can’t leave this job now that people like me are needed. I am aware that my people need me, so that keeps me motivated.
It is also about money. I am the sole earner of my family right now. My husband is sick.
There’s also the fact that whenever I raise awareness about healthcare or talk to people about COVID-19, I feel nice. I feel like I am capable of something. This has also helped me stay motivated.
More experiences can be found on the dedicated Inside Districts platform.