Leading the Way: K.K. Shailaja, Torchbearer of COVID-19 Containment in India

COVID-19 is on a roll across the whole country. With an alarming increase in the number of cases per day, Central and State governments are employing all possible measures so as to curb the spread of this virus, and parallely, to restore normalcy in the life of the general public. Amongst all the people fighting against COVID, directly or other-wise, one name stands out, K.K. Shailaja, Health and Social Welfare Minister of Kerala. With her critical thinking, timely actions and reasonable yet effective techniques to identify and contain the spread of the virus, K.K.Shailaja had flattened Kerala’s case growth curve at the time where there was an exponential increase in the number of cases across the country. 

Life At A Glance

K.K. Shailaja, also known as Shailaja Teacher hails from Kannur district of Kerala and was born on 20th November, 1956. She completed her Bachelor in Science (B.Sc.) from Pazhassi Raja N.S.S College, Mattanur and achieved a degree in Bachelors in Education (B.Ed) from Visvesvarayya College in 1980. Then, she was in service for seven years as a Science teacher at Shivapuram High School, Kannur. She retired in 2004 to pursue a full fledged political career.

Students Federation of India (SFI) paved the entry of K.K. Shailaja in the politics. She represented Koothuparamba and Peravoor constituencies in Kerala Legislative Assembly in the years 1996 and 2006 respectively. She is a CPI (M) Central Committee Member and also the Janadhipathya Mahila Association State Secretary and also its Joint Secretary in the Central Committee. In Pinarayi Vijayan government, she is serving as minister of Health and Social Welfare. 

Apart from all these, she is the secretary of All India Mahila Association. She had graced the Chief Editor’s post of ‘Sthree Sabdam’ and  also has authored two books, ‘Indian Varthamanam Sthreesamoohavum’ and ‘China- Rashtram, Rashteeyam,Kazhchakal’.

Tackling The Crisis

K.K. Shailaja has established a model structure for COVID containment by stringently implementing and following guidelines regarding testing and treatment. These included a strict contact-and-trace program, rapidly equipping for the patients by setting aside 2 hospitals and 500 beds in medical colleges per district, and planned diagnosis on the basis of symptoms and vulnerability. She kept a transparent process by having daily press briefings to inform the masses about the prevailing situations and the measures taken. She also had taken care of the appropriate arrangements for the migrants, those who were stuck in Kerala during the lock-down. Widespread rapid testing has also been done by the Kerala government. In an interview, she had revealed that being vigilant and proactive had helped to hold down the number of cases in the initial phase. 

The surge in number of the cases due to the influx of migrant citizens returning in the state is being taken care of. On the same page, measures are being taken so that medical professionals can be provided with some rest. Psychological and emotional counselling is also being provided by the government, over phone, for the elder people,individuals under home quarantine and those who are in need of it.

She has also tackled the 2018 Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala with fast diagnosis and equipped medical response. She was widely lauded for her extremely efficient manner and management. 

Applauds and Accolades

K.K Shailaja has been widely recognized, nationally and internationally, for her contribution in handling the COVID crisis in Kerala. Most recently, she has won the title of ‘Top Thinker’, which has been bestowed by the British Magazine ‘Prospect’. She has achieved this title by defeating Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. Apart from that, she had also been invited by the UN to take part in a panel discussion on June 23rd, 2020.BBC news has featured her in the list of Asian women Corona fighters, The Guardian and Vogue had also featured and mentioned  her in their print media.  

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