PUNJAB: In the last five years, this 36-year-old IAS officer has learned some course correction in his life: working for a living is good, but not good enough in its entirety; there are other ‘jobs’ that fetch you satisfaction, much more than money can buy. Currently posted as Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar, Ghanshyam Thori, the officer occasionally sets out looking for things close to his heart – right now it’s about an oxygen concentrator bank and online vaccination.
Elsewhere during his posting as Municipal Commissioner of Ludhiana, he rid the city walls of defacement and saved empty spaces from littering. His ‘Graffiti Project’ comprised art paintings on general and social awareness issues so that the industrial city is a little more dutiful. There have been several such “small things” that have come to set Thori apart.
The 2010 batch IAS officer of Punjab cadre will complete one year on June 15 as the Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar. All these months have been defined by Covid and characterised by our response to the pandemic. The officer started the first oxygen concentrator bank in the state in the district and brought all the private hospitals on board for Covid treatment.
“We started the oxygen bank with 50 concentrators. Now we have more than 100 of them which we give to home-isolation patients after they are discharged from hospitals,” says Thori. The service was initially meant for the people of Jalandhar. It has now been extended to patients in the neighbouring districts of Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, SBS Nagar and Moga.
“We have given another 50 of these concentrators to Civil Hospital of Jalandhar which are being used in the post-Covid recovery ward,’’ he says. Private hospitals were not treating Covid patients initially because of high fees. Patients would go to medical colleges or government hospitals at other places besides Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) at Jalandhar. Thori then persuaded private hospitals to contribute to the social cause. “There are now 60 hospitals in the district treating Covid patients as the government has capped the rates,’’ he said.
“On the vaccination front, Jalandhar is the first district in the state to bring out an innovative scheme “Hello Jalandhar Let’s Get Vaccinated!’. It books your vaccination appointment online at citywoofer.com.’’ “We have got 3,000 people vaccinated in the 18-plus age group and they have paid only `500 per dose. As we have three vaccination centres in three colleges and one has to select where one wants to get vaccinated, so we get to know in advance where it will be crowded,’’ says Thori.
The officer believes that the poor get the benefits from the government and the rich can pay for what they want, it is the lower middle class that gets sandwiched. “This section wants to pay a nominal sum and gets the services with respect but is unable to, as no government policy is specifically meant for them. At present, only charitable institutions are filling this gap. The government should pitch in as well,’’ he says.
The officer’s tryst with greater service of society began in 2016 when he was posted as Municipal Commissioner of Ludhiana. To check defacement and littering near government buildings, he launched ‘Graffiti Project.’ “This was launched on the Public Private Partnership model. We allowed firms to keep the branding rights and followed the best global practises in Europe and other parts of the world. Thus all government buildings and water tanks were covered,’’ he said.
In both Barnala and Sangrur, he replicated the graffiti painting model. Then he was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Bathinda and from there as DC of Barnala in 2017 where he started Sanjhi Rasoi, a subsidized meal scheme that was mandated by the state government. Officers were told to get one such Rasoi per district. In Barnala, he set up five such Rasois. When he was transferred as Deputy Commissioner of neighbouring Sangrur in 2018, he opened nine more such Rasois at the sub-division level.
“It was a good concept and we started nine such kitchens which cooked and serve 1,300 meals per day. Each meal cost us Rs 17, but we sold it for Rs 10. The rest of the money we collected by way of donations through a registered society, Pehal. The donors were offered tax exemption under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund,’’ he says.
To save the lives of newborns disowned by their parents, ‘Panghura’ (cradle) was started by Thori in Barnala when he was posted as the Deputy Commissioner of that district. Another initiative he took as the collector of Sangrur was to make vision charts displayed in eye clinics and hospitals to check sight. He got these made for 1,070 government schools in the district and told the teachers to check the vision of the students.
“Each chart cost us Rs 40 and was distributed in all the schools. Teachers were directed to check the eyesight of children. In the initial screening, around 6,000 students with weak eyesight were detected but after final analysis, 4,200 students were zeroed in and their specs were distributed free of cost,’’ he says.