Bharat Chauhan New Delhi, The Sentinels of the Soil is a delightful book of eight enthralling stories of bravery and selfless service from nooks and corners of India during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a collection of all those unheard voices, which continue to remain the backbone of the Government of India’s noble and successful work to curb the impact of the pandemic. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has chronicled the courage, service and compassion, manifested by these eight frontline warriors during the challenging COVID times. This book, is a tribute to all the frontline and healthcare workers of India, whom we do not know personally, yet they have tirelessly performed their duties for us without any self-interest.
The book details through photographs, the daily work of these healthcare and frontline workers and shows how they went about their duty tirelessly despite all odds. This is a beautiful photo book about the undying human spirit and how simple people contributed through their most inventive efforts leading to a gigantic positive impact on Government’s initiatives during the pandemic.
One such interesting example is of Dr Mukesh Maida and his team of health workers, who travelled through boats and walked miles to water-locked villages of the Banswara district in Rajasthan delivering vaccines to the most far-flung places. Beyond putting painstaking labour to reach such remote spots, his team is seen inspiring women to lead from the front and get vaccinated first to encourage other family members to get vaccinated. Dr Maida and his team ensured they countered any misinformation around the vaccination drive.
The book showcases to the world how a developing nation successfully overcame one of the biggest crisis ever seen in recent history. Another interesting anecdote is from the life of Parvin S Baria — the ambulance driver from Gujarat who tirelessly performed his duties despite losing both his parents to the disease. While the last rites of his parents were being performed, his other family members encouraged him to answer his call of duty and serve the society, which was in urgent need. Many drivers like him missed their meals and stayed away from their families for days, yet ensured humanity remained alive during these testing times.
The pandemic has a lot to teach the human race. The beautiful photos bring to light the endeavours of the Government of India in preventing and minimising the detrimental impact of this pandemic. From vaccinations happening at lightning speeds to infection testing, and hospitals running at their full capacities, everything has been put out through these pictures. The Government’s medical knowledge base and medical enforcement arms like the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Drugs Controller General of India and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) left no stone unturned to understand the disease and and curb its spread. There were quick drug trials and approvals, vaccination was developed rapidly and supplied at an unprecedented pace. Makeshift hospital facilities were constructed within days, which began operating at their full capacities immediately. Like many doctors who were exhausted yet awake, this book tells us the story of Dr. Devashish Desai, a senior resident at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, who tirelessly worked shifts after shifts and faced one of the worst medical crisis too soon in his career.
Another captivating story is of Harshali Purohit, a health worker from Madhya Pradesh who went on to encourage people to get their doses of the COVID vaccine and end misinformation around it. Using traditions and rituals, Harshali invited people to vaccination centres through crafted invitations placing rice and turmeric at people’s doorsteps – a ritual that’s usually performed as an invitation for auspicious occasions like marriages. The people were pleasantly surprised by her unique action, who finally began coming out to get their vaccine doses. She successfully broke the social barriers and stigma around vaccination.
Moving ahead from the stories of health workers and frontline workers, this book surfaces a quirky story of a common citizen who took upon himself to educate and sensitise people about COVID Appropriate Behaviour. India, with its huge diversified population and a big geographic area presents the challenge of reach and language barriers. During such times, our very own noble citizens like PK Perumal from Kerala came forward to support the Government’s efforts to spread the message of COVID Approipriated Behaviour and to get vaccinated, pro bono. He took it upon himself to reach out to the masses and become a communication tool of the Government. Perumal went on to spread awareness about COVID Appropriate Behaviour in busy market spots in Chennai, using a microphone attached to this motorbike. In addition to this, he used his own savings to deliver medicines and food to needy people, without charging them anything.
In retrospection, this book not only brings to the surface the success of the Government in curbing this pandemic but is a token of respect to all the frontline health workers, who were the support pillars for the entire society and deserve our honour and appreciation.