COVID-19 battle: Para shuttler Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj is an able warrior!
India's World No. 2 in his discipline and IAS officer Suhas Yathiraj displays sporting grit and resilience as he leads COVID-19 battle in Uttar Pradesh.
The Coronavirus-forced lockdown has been a bane and boon for sportspersons. While some are disappointed to see their training and competition schedules upset, others are happy to spend quality time with their families.
However, India's World No. 2 para shuttler Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj, 36, has embarked upon a challenging phase in his career. The IAS officer (2007 batch, Uttar Pradesh) is heading the COVID-19 operations for UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath's government.
Suhas was recently appointed District Magistrate (DM) of Gautam Buddh Nagar on an urgent basis by the Adityanath government, who was unhappy with the region's preparedness to tackle the pandemic. Gautam Buddh Nagar, which comprises some crucial areas like Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway, has been one of the most severely affected parts of UP with over two dozen positive cases detected so far. Suhas, who previously served as Special Secretary to the Planning Department in Lucknow, has his hands full.
'Mentally, physically strong'
"I have to be mentally and physically strong for this massive challenge. The day I took charge, we had just 40 beds. Now, we have over 600 though the number of cases are not that high yet. A special 'Team 300' has been formed to work on a containment and awareness campaign," Suhas told mid-day on Tuesday even as our conversation was interrupted a couple of times while he attended to urgent calls from the health ministry.
Suhas Yathiraj visits Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida with medical experts on Monday
Suhas, a gold medallist at the 2016 Asian Para Badminton Championships in Beijing, competes in the SL4 category due to a deformity in his ankle. He is in contention to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics next year. However, he's not even thinking about that at the moment. "Sport is not even in the most remote corner of my mind right now. As a leader against this pandemic, it is my responsibility to initiate things. My immediate challenge was to put systems in place. It's about identifying the task in front of you and picking the people, who are capable of executing it. While maximum help from the government is required to ensure the supply of daily necessities to all, we also seek help from the society to cooperate in these tough times," added Suhas, a gold medallist at last year's Turkish Open Para-Badminton Championships in Antalya.
Suhas has ordered all landlords in Gautam Buddh Nagar not to charge any rent for this month from daily wagers and migrants. The shuttler is duplicating all the resilience he exhibits on the badminton court.
'No substitute to hard work'
"As a sportsman, I have learnt that there is no substitute for hard work. In a crisis, you have to be ready to work even 20 hours a day. You will get results only if you work sincerely. My teams are always alert. We are happily participating in meetings even around midnight," added Suhas, who has managed to keep a further 300 isolation beds on stand-by besides setting up an integrated control room in association with HCL to attend to calls throughout.
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