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Polio programme visibility soars with Farooque Shaikh’s visit

LUCKNOW: He fits into any role with ease but film and theatre personality Farooque Shaikh was truly himself as a motivator on mission for the polio programme recently in Lucknow. He was passion and conviction personified on his whistle-stop visits – meeting with community leaders, interacting with the media, motivating field staff and patiently vaccinating children at the launch of the polio round on November 25 round. In all his visits, it was his conviction that touched all those around him. The visit also generated huge media interest, pushing visibility for the polio programme to an all-time high positive media coverage of 50 per cent.

Compared with 548 cases in 2006, Uttar Pradesh has 297 polio cases so far this year. Out of these, 277 are caused by the type 3 virus and the remaining by the type 1 virus. The success in controlling the P1 virus has been hailed as a major programme breakthrough made possible by the wide participation of people. One of the purposes of Shaikh’s visits was to thank community leaders – who have thrown their weight behind the programme – and to motivate them to be relentless until eradication.

Shaikh did succeed in his mission. He was a draw as he repeatedly reminded everybody: “We are almost at the finish-line.” Employing a local idiom, he told people that “the elephant had been pushed out and now only its tail remained,” meaning most of the job had been done. “We have reached the Everest (Mount Everest) and not far from hoisting the flag,” he said.

At the community leaders’ meeting at the Islamic Centre of India, he lauded their dedication and egged them on. “Nobody has been able to do what you have done. Your contribution has helped us get this task done. Please launch a social jihad to eradicate polio.” When community leaders Haji Mohammed Hussain (Munna Bhai) from Moradabad and Haji Mohammed Sadruddin from Ghaziabad heard from him how many people were working for polio eradication, they said they were surprised. It was hard to miss the facts when they came from Shaikh.

That there was a lot on his mind came was apparent when he met the social mobilizers from the SMNet and inquired about their well-being following the bomb blasts in certain parts of the state. He also asked if arrangements for the November 25 polio round were in place. He touched their hearts with his interest in their lives. He also made them feel good about their work. “By eradicating polio from Uttar Pradesh you are creating history.You will recall with great pride one day the work you have done.”

Farooque Shaikh spent some of his time with journalists. The impact of his visit on the media environment can be gauged from the print media analysis of November. Positive stories on polio in Lucknow in November were 60 compared with only seven in October. Out of these, as many as 22 stories (more than one-third) are a result of Shaikh’s visit.

Shaikh has been a crusader for the programmme for the past many years. He has made many visits to the field and helped raise awareness and advocate with senior community leaders for the polio programme. As the programme enters a decisive phase, Shaikh will be on his feet so that the children too are on theirs.

By Sushmita Malaviya





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