Ramesh Chaurasia: Breaking myths, spreading the truth, and saving lives

Chaos spreads faster than peace. This was seen during the Coronavirus pandemic when misinformation spread through social media and became a problem in the vaccination drive. While billions of people in India got vaccinated and co-operated with the health system to reduce the burden of rising Covid cases, there were millions of people in rural areas where the right information could not reach on time and thus, fear and misinformation became a hindrance.

Social welfare organizations like the Akhil Bharatiya Adarsh Chaurasia Mahasabha were at the front when the pandemic was at its peak. Their dedicated team members were arranging all possible help to underprivileged and the needy. While they actively participated in the food supply distribution drives, they were also involved in fighting misinformation regarding vaccination which was being spread in villages.

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“During the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic, misinformation was also at its peak. The easy access to internet and social media made it worse because it was also used to spread fear and misinformation in rural areas where more than 60% of the Indian population resides. Our team tried to reach out to all these places so that we could communicate with people living in villages and help them understand the benefits of getting vaccinated. Initially, there were a lot of rumours related to the vaccine including some which were totally ridiculous. A myth was spread in a few villages in Uttar Pradesh that the virus does not spread in village areas. In other villages, people started believing that the COVID vaccine affects the menstrual cycle of women and also affects their fertility. We took doctors with us to several places where our teams were working to make people believe that what they were told was false and being spread with malicious intentions. Our efforts bore fruit and we were able to help people get vaccinated across villages where we have a ground presence.”, said Mr. Ramesh Chaurasia, the president of the Akhil Bharatiya Adarsh Chaurasia Mahasabha.

We discussed a few important factors with one of the senior volunteers of the organization. They said, “We have always tried to help the local agencies and government to implement major schemes and campaigns even before the pandemic and after it. We have been active in sectors like healthcare, education, employment, girl child empowerment and skill development in rural as well as urban areas. Our strength lies in having presence where it matters the most and our teams are comprised of people from the community itself. This is why our outreach programs and community gatherings have helped us build a trusting relationship with the vulnerable sections of society which we are striving hard to uplift. This is why we could play a role in accelerating vaccination drives and could motivate the people to follow the necessary protocols.”

The organization, under the leadership of Mr. Ramesh Chaurasia and their locally connected team, could reach and step in where the governments could not. This enabled them to present the schemes offered by the government in a clear and positive way. Since the organization aims at community building, it was just a matter of motivating a few people and the rest was done by the members of the community itself. A community is like a large family and sometimes, you just need to convince the head of the family. This is a mutual relationship of respect.

What is now evident is that whether this pandemic lasts or doesn’t, its impact on different areas and development will last for a long time. It is also obvious that this is not the last crisis. In the present times as well as in the coming times, the work of civil organizations, NGOs, and community leaders will be crucial especially for the vulnerable sections of society. This pandemic can be a learning experience for the governments and various local bodies to collaborate and to help each other for different causes which affect large populations.

Mr. Ramesh Chaurasia also talked about existing schemes and the need for better information and awareness regarding their application. He said, “There are several existing schemes offered by the government. We want to ensure that the details of all beneficial schemes are simplified and conveyed to the people living in rural and urban areas so that those who truly need such schemes can benefit from them. We aim to break the myths around immunization and other health issues. We will continue to work on nutrition security. We believe that health is the foundation of a well-functioning society and it is indeed the true wealth.”