Farooq Sheikh boosts polio drive in Uttar Pradesh
Booth coverage increases in resisting areas of Meerut
By Shamila Sharma
Meerut, January 4, 2007: It was a cold and windy winter morning. People on the road were literally hugging their jackets and shawls. But this did not deter eminent film star and TV personality Farooq Sheikh from embarking on a road show in an open jeep to campaign for polio immunization in the difficult areas of Meerut.
As his cavalcade passed through Lakhipura, Tarapuri and Shakur Nagar – areas traditionally offering stiff resistance to polio vaccination – hundreds of people emerged from narrow lanes to get a glimpse of the celebrity and garland him.
Loudspeakers blared polio jingles as the cavalcade of around 30 vehicles, decorated with polio posters, banners and flowers, covered some 11 kilometers to culminate outside a small school in Shakur Nagar, where Farooq Sheikh addressed a public meeting.
“In Mumbai, I had heard of Tarapuri and Shakur Nagar as areas where people do not want to give polio drops to their children. But looking at the motivated crowd here I am sure that the next time I hear about your area, it would be for registering maximum coverage in the forthcoming polio round”, Farooq Sheikh told a huge gathering of women, children and local leaders.
“No child should be crippled by polio. Vaccinate your children each and every time there is a polio round”, he added.
He made passionate appeals to the people, leaving them mesmerized as he had done with his splendid roles in classic movies in past.
And the people of Meerut reciprocated.
The 7 January polio round, just three days after his visit, recorded an increase in booth day coverage and 30 per cent decline in the number of resisting families. The ‘XR’ (resisting houses) in Shakur Nagar declined by 28 per cent and in Tarapuri by 26 per cent.
Farooq Sheikh has obviously made inroads into the hearts of those who had so far refused to give in. And this is what he advocated to the frontline workers engaged in the programme.
Appreciating the work done by the community mobilizers, he asked them to, “Win hearts of parents through small gestures. Once you do so, they will listen to you and will be willing to give polio drops to their children”.
During his day-long visit, Farooq Sheikh also addressed a religious leaders meeting.
“It is our social, moral and religious responsibility to support polio immunization”, he urged a gathering of Muslim leaders from Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur. The meeting had been called by Jamia Hamdard University, which is actively supporting the polio eradication programme.
Later, addressing a press conference, Farooq Sheikh sought the crucial support of the media to win the war against polio.
“Do not highlight just the negativities of the programme. Don’t ignore the wrongs, but also talk about the achievements”, he told a large gathering of reporters from both print and electronic media.
Well versed with the polio eradication programme, its roadblocks and accomplishments, Farooq Sheikh, handled media volleys with ease.
“We have brought down the number of polio cases from 350,000 in the 1980’s to a mere few hundred – we are definitely winning the war!” he said.
Farooq Sheikh left with a promise to come back next time to vaccinate the children himself and hopefully, in near future, to celebrate a polio-free Meerut.