Shreyas Kulkarni
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Punjab Police takes Coronavirus head-on with a new campaign

Keeping in mind the large influx of foreign-returned, the Punjab Police launched the campaign to spread awareness about the virus.

The world is at war with an enemy it can’t see or touch. Ever since it originated in China in 2019, the Coronavirus has infected over 6.5 lakh people globally, and claimed 30,000-plus lives. In India, the virus has claimed 22 lives and over 970 people have tested positive.

Since there is no vaccine for the virus yet, frequent handwashing, social distancing, and self-isolation are the most important precautions one can take to halt its spread.

But when it comes to self-isolation, Punjab is facing difficulty. As per a Hindustan Times report on March 24, 2020, the state saw an influx of 90,000 foreign-returned. As many of these people may be carriers of the virus, they need to be tested (some were, in fact, tested) and quarantined. But, a good number of them seem to have disappeared and are out of reach now. This puts them as well as others at risk.

As Punjab Police stay on the trail of the thousands of missing people returned from the COVID-19 impacted countries,...

Posted by Punjab Police India on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

So, the Punjab Police has come out with an aggressive communication titled ‘Gawacha Gurbaksh’, meaning lost Gurbaksh. This is to ensure that families of these foreign-returned, and communities across the state, are aware of the virus, its symptoms, and the precautions one should take, such as social distancing and self-isolation.

Chraneeta Mann
Chraneeta Mann

Chraneeta Mann, co-founder of The Mob, the creative agency behind the campaign, says that when they received the brief, it was a race against time...

She explained that the brief from the Punjab Police was about the many people who had returned from Coronavirus impacted countries, and how it was essential to follow up with them for the safety of everyone.

Most of these people are from rural areas and small towns. And, while they are aware of the outbreak in the countries they had returned from, their levels of awareness about Coronavirus, its contagiousness, as well as the hygiene measures was an unknown variable. Hence, it’s important that they are communicated with and informed about how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

When this campaign was being made, several states were being put under lockdown to halt the virus’ spread, so its execution was a challenge.

Mann says, "The Mob team - Nitin Suri, Carol Goyal and I across Mumbai and Delhi, were working from home, studios were shut and whatever campaign we created had to be made fast, keeping in mind these restrictions."

“Goyal, out of her Mumbai home, coordinated with the Punjab Police, who went out of their way to provide assistance. They helped us get the artists and influencers on board. The creatives were conceptualised and ideated by us (Mann and Suri) at The Mob in Delhi, already in work-from-home mode.”

Talking about 'Gawacha Gurbaksh', Mann says, “Being a Punjabi from a family of agriculturists myself, this exercise was extremely close to my heart. We came up with the concept of 'Gawacha Gurbaksh' a representation of the missing Italy returned Punjabi, who is lost without a trace in the open fields of Punjab, has probably been welcomed home by his family in some small village, and, unknown to himself, is inadvertently playing a role in the spread of COVID-19.”

Mann says that the popular singer Diljit Dosanjh voiced his lyrical take on the idea with 'The Case of Gawaacha Gurbaksh' and lyricist/rapper Sidhu Moose Wala added his support with his musical interpretation of ‘Gawacha Gurbaksh’.

Each film has detailed instructions on how the family should be careful, maintain social distancing, and call a helpline number if the person says he has a fever.

Commending the Punjab Police, Mann spoke about how helpful and encouraging they were. “They gave us all the creative freedom.”

“The campaign is now live across all social media platforms, WhatsApp and local radio channels. As the campaign takes hold, the plan is to expand it beyond other touchpoints across the hinterland. Taking our message to wherever ‘Gawacha Gurbaksh’ might be,” Mann signs off.