A special women’s brigade called Mahila Commandos, which became popular for its long battle against alcoholism and social evils in Chhattisgarh’s Balod district, is now sensitising people about social distancing and personal hygiene to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Clad in maroon sarees, wearing caps and face masks, women volunteers of the group step out of their homes in villages across Balod every morning, chanting the slogan: “Corona ki jung, Mahila Commando ke sang, jitenge hum,” (Mahila commandos will fight coronavirus and we will win).
“Our reach is in almost every villageof the district and people pay heed to our messages. We thought our role could be crucial in making people aware about coronavirus and hence, we joined the district administration in fighting the pandemic, Shamshad Begum, who leads the drive,” told PTI.
“Nearly 12,500 women commandos are active in about 400 villages of the district. Apart from spreading awareness, they are also helping the poor and needy people by providing them rice and cash through the district administration,” she said. “So far, they have contributed over 10 quintal rice to the Anaaj Bank (grains bank) set up by the district administration as part of relief measures during the lockdown. They also collect cash, ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 from every village,and deposit it in the collectors relief
fund,” she said.
“Besides, some women volunteers are also stitching masks and distributing them for free to people and district administration employees,” said Shamshad Begum, who was awarded Padma Shri in 2012 for her social work.
Nearly 200 women commandos, who have been termed as “super police officers” (volunteers working for police) by local police administration, are also helping the police in monitoring the law and order situation, the activist said. “There are about 50,000 women commandos spread across 12 other districts of the state, and they are also playing their part in the fight against coronavirus in their respective areas,” she said.
“But, the focus is mainly in Balod where we are getting support from the district administration,” she said.
The activist laid the foundation of Mahila Commandos in 2006 from her native place in Gunderdehi when it was part of the undivided Durg district (now in Balod, about 100 km
from the capital Raipur). She has been running the campaign through her organisation Sahyogi Jan Kalyan Samiti.
Hailing the women commandos, Balod Collector Ranu Sahu said their proactive involvement has added impetus to the district administrations efforts to fight coronavirus. “After completing their household chores, these women conduct patrolling to ensure everyone stays inside doors, collect food grains for distribution among poor and make face masks for free distribution. They are doing whatever they can in this time of crisis. Their contribution is highly commendable,” the collector said.
“The district administration has arranged vehicles for them to transport rice and pulses collected by them for contribution to the Anaaj Bank and is also taking various
other measures to help them,” Sahu added.