India is still battling the COVID-19 pandemic and with the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus, measures to contain the transmission have once again become inevitable.
The COVID warriors across the country have been selflessly and relentlessly striving towards curbing the outbreak for the past several months. However, several reports pointing to their sufferings and financial distress are making the headlines.
One such story is of a 31-year-old sanitation worker from Assam's Goalpara district. Tulu Basfor's dedication towards his duty stormed the internet when the district administration shared that when the entire janitorial staff of a local civic hospital refused to clean the COVID-19 ward due to the fear of getting infected, he had stepped up to perform the task for several months.
Without caring for his personal safety, Basfor volunteered to carry out the task that would enable the bigger objective of treating patients and controlling the outbreak. Despite his heroic efforts, he is still working as a temporary worker and struggling with poverty.
"Goalpara had got one of the first cases of COVID-19 in the state...At that time, there were a lot of rumours and myths about the virus. Our janitor staff and even a few medical staff were reluctant to attend to the COVID-19 wards. There was no regular cleaner available. That's when the turning point came in the shape of Tulu Basfor. He showed the true spirit of the human mind and heart. He donned the PPE kit and cleaned the COVID-19 ward and continued with this duty, leaving behind a young wife and a small child," Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara, Varnali Deka, told NDTV.
Basfor joined the hospital as a casual worker when he was 17, earning a meagre amount of ₹3,000 per month which is not enough to make ends meet especially during a pandemic. He has been hoping that he will be appointed as a permanent worker.
"I have an old mother and a child, so I never went back home...As patients used to panic, I always tried to keep them happy. I used to speak to them from a distance and always told them that I would be there if they needed anything," Basfor said while speaking about the hardships faced during the initial months of the outbreak.
While he was away, his family had to endure the stigma attached to the pandemic and financial crisis.
"I kept weeping for days, worried about him...we didn't sleep for days, hardly had food. Many people had also been taunting us. Because we are poor, people spread rumours about us," said his mother, Geeta Basfor.
"We wish that my husband gets some reward for his temporary yet important service for many years...sometimes, I tell him to leave this job, but he does not want to...he feels a sense of belonging to the job," Dimple Kalita, his wife said.