In the wake of curbing the spread of this contagious virus COVID-19, the Government of varying countries, including India, has taken several precautionary measures and there have been many people who are working unconditionally in serving the society during this pandemic period.
One of them is Noida-based doctor couple, Dr. Ajit Saxena, and Dr. Neeta Saxena who chooses an UNCONVENTIONAL way of helping people during COVID-19. Instead of just giving free consultations, they have reached personally to the migrant laborers and COVID frontline workers and provided them many essential COVID protective products. Here we bring to you the interesting story of a doctor couple who shared with us their experience of what made them think of implementing this initiative and how they succeeded in making it happen in a series by NLC, named ‘Lockdown Chronicles’.
Read the detailed interview of Dr. Ajit Saxena, Urologist with NLC Assistant Editor Lakshika Thakur.
Q. You both being a doctor, what brings you to choose this unconventional way of helping people through your initiative named ‘MASKit’ of distributing organic masks?
A. We started at a time when people were talking about social distancing and talking about if masks should be worn or not, that was being discussed and when the public had access to these masks, they were not really of the right quality, that was the time I thought masks will come but in a big way and so decided work out something for that. I approached my local tailor for the same who had the leftover fabric scraps to be used for the masks and was more than happy to contribute. Then we easily found a lady who is a sewing teacher to stitch the masks who were very humble to do it for free after she heard about the cause. Then later came the challenge of finding elastics for the masks which were resolved after I put it up on my local WhatsApp media and someone from the NBT Media get it published in the newspaper that we are in the requirement of elastics for the masks. Then these people from Noida, Sector- 19 approached us with the elastics and when asked them for the charges, they were also very humble to charge zero rupees for the same they said that if you’re working on such a great cause, how can we charge for the same? So, if you will look around there you can find many nice people. When we finally started distributing the masks to the underprivileged or weaker sections of the society or the frontline COVID workers including people working on the roads, I even put it up on social media and we received from many cities like Hyderabad, Jaipur, Amritsar, so we kept producing the masks and keep distributing them wherever needed and the demands came from.
Q. What were your major challenges in executing your initiative?
A. The major challenge for me was to arrange for the elastics as during the lockdown period, all the shops and everything is shut and the other major challenge was to get the job done by the right people but fortunately, I got the help from many people and all from the common people.
Q. Other than making these masks available to your target audience at no cost, what made you think of making them completely organic?
A. I am a doctor and I know that disposable marks aren’t authentic and their disposal is harmful to the environment and also it is horrifying to see them thrown or disposed of on the streets and sides of the road. So, in this scenario, I thought organic masks are better the reason being they can be reused 100% and you can even wash them easily as you wash other clothes.
Q. How your entire process has been in commencing the idea and who all you thought of contacting or involving in the process?
A. I just put it up on Facebook and there were many who responded to it. Therefore, I now have about 10 fix centers for delivering the masks to them for the cause. The idea of local distribution worked really well. Like there is this man in Ashok Vihar who put the masks in a temple, therefore, making it very easy for the people to have access to these masks for free.
Q. How did you do the transportation or distribution of masks and its materials?
A. In fact, I took the help of the police transport for the transportation of the material for the masks and later for their distribution as during the lockdown period we cannot step out of our houses or meet someone so I even directed my tailor over the video calls. The police have been extremely helpful to us throughout the process.
Q. How successful has been the initiative so far or how has been the response of people towards it?
A. We received tremendous response and appreciation of people. Particularly, during the lockdown period when people were getting bored sitting at their homes, so they extremely praised and supported the initiative.
Q. For how long will you continue with this as using masks other than just during the pandemic is a good precautionary measure in safeguarding yourself from pollution and other infections as well?
A. As of now, we will continue, as long as the demand is there and people are going to wear masks, we will continue producing them.
Q. Who would you like to acknowledge for supporting you in making your initiative successful?
A. I would like to acknowledge Noida Police, Navbharat Times, Navratan Foundation, our sewing instructor Mrs. Neetu Singh, and our all materials suppliers of fabric and elastic.
Q. Other than Maskit, is there any other social cause you are planning to initiate to help the underprivileged section of the society?
A. I am already managing a long-run project named ‘Delhi Tumor Board’ which is an organization working for the treatment of the cancer patients who are poor and cannot have access to the renowned doctors for the correct cancer management. As part of the project which is absolutely for the welfare of the environment, we conduct free plantation every now and then.
Q. Is there anything you would like to convey to the public in regard to the proper usage of the masks?
A. I think masks are here to stay. While fancy masks are available, there are some restrictions in the usage of the masks. What people do is, they open up the plates of the masks and wear them, this isn’t the correct process of using the masks and the masks which we have designed, you can’t just open their plates and therefore I think, they are more effective than the normal masks which are available in the market.