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Students, mentors made Assam Cares a success


GUWAHATI, May 3 - The Assam Cares programme launched by the State government to help people from Assam, including a large segment of migrant workers and students, stranded at different parts of the country received an overwhelming response, enabling the authorities to make timely monetary intervention to ease their lives amid the nationwide lockdown.

Managing the lakhs of missed calls (those in distress were supposed to give a missed call to the helpline) and then gathering all the required information from them and creating an online database for streamlining delivery was an arduous task and the helpdesk had to work day in and out to ensure that the grievances of the needy did not go unanswered or unaddressed.

It took a team of around 800 student volunteers from Gauhati University, Cotton University and Assam Engineering College, Guwahati who worked relentlessly and painstakingly from 10 am to 10 pm, calling lakhs of stranded people across the country. Hundreds of study rooms of such students were transformed into mini call centres in the process. The mentor professors were guiding, helping, troubleshooting and motivating the volunteers through online. After 10 pm, the mentors compiled the statistics and sent reports to the government team.

�It was quite tough. We received around 29 lakh missed calls, out of those around six lakh were genuine ones... The next step was to send an automatic SMS to all those six lakh numbers containing a web link that provides a simple form facilitating submission of information like where they are put up currently, their Assam address, and the bank account number and IFSC code,� Prof Sikhar Sarma of Gauhati University, who headed one of the groups of the mission, told The Assam Tribune.

Principal Secretary, Education, Assam, B Kalyan Chakravarty is heading the mission.

The total number of people who could follow the weblink and submit their info online was not more than two lakh and the next challenge was how to collect bank info from the rest four lakh � most of who were not online savvy or lacked smartphones, or might not have access to or even did not know the internet.

�The government approached the vice chancellors and heads of institutes like GU, CU and AEC. The institute heads appealed to the students to volunteer, and prepared a list of around 800 volunteers who had internet and laptops at their homes and who were willing to join the mega mission. Their job was to login to an online web portal containing the list of such people, call them one by one through the portal, initiating voice calls, and gather the required info over phone, and simultaneously input in the portal against the particular number � a complex and troublesome job given that many did not know the IFSC and many lacked clear voice communication,� Prof Sarma said.

The State government has so far deposited Rs 2,000 each (for one month) to the accounts of 2.5 lakh people, with more to follow.

Prof Sarma added that a major thrust of the mentors was to keep the volunteers motivated, and to guide and support them mentally and psychologically � and suggesting them to be always calm. Many students reached to over 160 calls a day, working continuously for 12 hours.

�It is unbelievable how all the student volunteers have worked so professionally with just a short session of online training. They have really taken it from their heart and extended exemplary service. Their work was very challenging and the accomplishments highly appreciable. Looking at the volume of calls to be made, the government has now included another 75 teachers from different colleges to volunteer for the cause,� he said.

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