Some bureaucrats may not bother to lift a finger to help. Others climb hills.
Surendra Kumar Meena, the district magistrate of Alipurduar, went beyond the call of his duty on Saturday, trekking for 11km and at least five hills to reach Adma, a remote village in the Buxa hills near the India-Bhutan border, to start Covid 19 vaccination there.
Meena went with Prasanta Kumar Barman, the BDO of Kalchini block under which the village is located, along with state health department and employees and security personnel to Adma.
The team started off much before daybreak. Around 4am, the team reached Raimatang, some 45km from the district headquarters, by road. From there, they trekked uphill to reach Adma, 11km away. It took them four hours to reach the village where people of the Dukpa community live. On the way, the team crossed five hills.
After some 100 villagers aged 45 years or above were vaccinated, the team again trekked back for another four hours to reach Raimatang. Eventually, they returned to Alipurduar at around 5.30pm.
In recent years, this is the first time that any district magistrate has visited the hilly village.
“It was a tough journey, particularly because of the rains. We used sticks for support and in some places, some of us have to virtually crawl the terrain. The gorge on the way was deep, at some sites around 100-foot deep,” said a team member.
Meena, when asked about his visit to the village that still lacks a motorable road, said infrastructure was steadily developing in Adma in recent years.
“Villagers have electricity at home now. A new school building and a community toilet have come up. A sum of Rs 50 lakh has been approved for construction of a community hall,” said the DM.
On his trek, he said: “We felt it necessary to reach out to residents with vaccines like any other area of the district.”
Meena also inaugurated a new classroom at the local primary school and the community toilet.
Adma residents were overwhelmed withthe visitors. “We had heard that the district magistrate would visit our village but did not believe it. It was indeed a surprise that he came. Or else, we have to walk up to Kalchini to get the vaccine,” said Thele Dukpa, a villager.
As Meena started interacting with people and distributed masks among them, villagers, in ones and twos, started approaching him to share their problems.
“We are overwhelmed to find the district magistrate here. At times, we feel no one cares about us. But the efforts of the DM and the BDO changed our minds. It was nice to see that we can get vaccines in our village,” said Eangki Dukpa, another resident.