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With aid from Italy, Sky Watchers’ Assn works on Covid preparedness

“Scientists and experts are doing their best to handle the situation. But we, the common people, also can support them to remain better prepared. This is the prime  objective of SWAN’s CWPN,

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

Sky Watchers’ Association of North Bengal (SWAN) is all set to form its ‘Covid 3rd Wave Preparedness Network (CWPN)’ for deep interiors in the Dooars, Terai as well as the Sundarbans by distributing medical equipment worth Rs 40 lakh among many voluntary organisations there.

According to SWAN office bearers, the organisation was successful in qualifying to receive the equipment in grant from ‘Pro-Vida’ Italy, and that the same was the largest non-government Covid support foreign grant for North Bengal. Though the present global Covid-19 picture is showing a downward trend, experts are apprehending the arrival of the so-called third wave soon, which they say may go even worse than the first or the second ones.

“Scientists and experts are doing their best to handle the situation. But we, the common people, also can support them to remain better prepared. This is the prime  objective of SWAN’s CWPN,” said the Founder Secretary of
SWAN, Debasis Sarkar.

SWAN, as an Affiliated Networked Institute of ISRO and under the recognition of NASA Afterschool Astronomy Initiative, is primarily engaged in popularising astronomy and science.

“But, while looking towards the sky, we at SWAN cannot forget the land down under our feet that holds us. And this land means its entire ecosystem, including plants, animals and obviously humans. That keeps us involved in disaster relief activities too. Covid-19 is no exception. After studying activities of around 30 organisations and a few rural health centers only in the deep interiors, SWAN has listed them for CWPN. All of them are receiving hospital-grade oxygen concentrators, accessories or protective gears.

A couple of them will also have CPAP machines (Often called as Mini Ventilators). While getting the equipment at their doorstep, we will also train them on the usage or maintenance of the machines and working pattern of the network under dedicated coordinators,” Mr Sarkar said.

According to him, all the recipients will remain governed by and in coordination with SWAN’s CWPN coordinators. “This will help equipment of one place to be used by people of another nearby  locality, increasing the usage level for all the machines. In addition, the database prepared by the coordinators on the usage level and pattern will be of use for academic researchers in India as well as abroad,” Mr Sarkar said.

“Be there the third wave or not, these machines will empower people of those remote corners in certain areas of healthcare in the future. All these machines are covered under years-long international warranty coverage offered by the manufacturers. With three-monthlong official proceedings and fulfilment of huge international level formalities, SWAN could successfully gain the confidence of a major international voluntary organisation ‘Pro-Vida’ from Italy to receive these equipments as grant under its philanthropic initiative,” he added.

Made in Mexico by global leaders in healthcare machines, including PHILIPS, these materials were procured in Italy and exported through an international cargo handler at an expense of Rs 11.5 lakh, it is learnt. SWAN received them
as importer only after fulfilling a long chain of official formalities and by crossing many government restrictions.

According to SWAN, while the donor organisation has provided the equipment, all other expenses involved in the distribution, training or operating the network will remain as SWAN’s responsibility.

“As SWAN does not receive any government fund and is not sponsored by any corporate entity, to meet all the expenses, SWAN needs support from all. We are thankful to the Indian Customs authorities for waiving the entire amount of customs duty on the import of these equipments. We are thankful to the Government of India for facilitating the process that helped us to meet up all the formalities to receive the items. We are also thankful to the Bengal state government for being supportive,” Mr Sarkar said.