Catching India’s Poisonous Snakes To Collecting COVID Waste, Panchkula Warriors Deserve Praise

The possibility of being bitten by India’s most poisonous land snake, the Common krait, or by the Russell’s viper, which results in most deaths, does not discourage a youthful team constituted as the Rapid Task Force (RTF) by the Panchkula municipal corporation (MC). By rescuing snakes from homes and gardens, they saved both humans and reptiles from a bloody conflict, as per a TOI report.As the fear of COVID-19 loomed large and families hesitated to perform last rites of their loved ones, the snake rescuers have been called for another risky job which is to collect bio-medical and other solid/kitchen wastes from quarantine centres and isolation homes. BCCLGovernment employees mandated to perform waste collection tasks were not up to the challenge, so the onerous duty fell upon the snake-rescue team. The dual tasking of rescuing snakes, monkeys, sambars, monitor lizards on the one hand and removing hazardous Covid waste on the other stretched the RTF to the extreme limits but they rose to the occasion and established themselves as unsung, frontline warriors against the new coronavirus, which had evoked as much dread as a black cobra roving in a living space at night. AFP“When the venom of snakes does not scare us, how will coronavirus scare us? None of us has contracted the virus though we are performing the waste collection duties, even foregoing the celebration of our traditional festivals. We have to travel to peripheral areas such as Raipur Rani, Kalka and Barwala to collect COVID waste and negotiate rocky terrains with our vehicles. The employees who should have been doing this task got afraid of collecting COVID waste so were asked to take over the responsibility in an emergency situation. We are doing the task without hesitation. We have had a long experience working with wildlife and this has helped us tackle hazardous waste collection also,” RTF member Alfaaz, told TOI. AFPAlfaaz’s RTF colleagues include Mohammad Ali, Shah Rukh, Anil, Syed Ali and Shamshaad. Though collection of biomedical wastes does not fall under the mandate of the MC, the unprecedented crisis evolving from the pandemic resulted in innovative cross-department tasking. “The RTF was set up in 2018 to rescue wildlife and was a brainchild of then MC commissioner Rajesh Jogpal and it has served the society and nation well in the crisis also. No other local body in Haryana has such an RTF for wildlife rescue. We have allocated three vehicles for Covid waste collection. The RTF and some more employees make up a 12-member team for the waste collection. The RTF is provided with proper protection kits and follow protocols while collecting waste from quarantine centres and isolation homes. The waste is handed over to Ess Kay Hygienic Service, with which we have a contract for disposal. The hospitals directly dispose offtheir wastes through contracts with the same company,” Jarnail Singh, executive officer, MC, told TOI.
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