As healthcare systems across a large swathe of India collapsed on the heels of the second wave of Covid-19 infections, desperation made people take to social media in the search of essentials such as hospital beds. Numerous individuals, civil society groups and political outfits are responding to pleas on social media. In this context, Srinivas BV, national president of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), has emerged as a go-to person for many in dire need. He explained how it works to Subodh Ghildiyal:
What exactly are you doing?
We speak to the patients who contact us. If they want home isolation, we get voluntary doctors who counsel them. We have prepared a national list of Covid patients who have recovered and we convince them to donate plasma for patients who are prescribed it. People come for emergency help like hospital beds, oxygen and ambulances. We have contracted some oxygen dealers. Those who can pay are put directly in touch with the vendors, while we provide oxygen to the poor.
The Delhi government website on hospital beds is only 60% accurate. So, IYC volunteers prepare a list of beds in hospitals in different localities and we try to arrange them as per requests. We also run community kitchens and provide food to needy families. We are helping people register for vaccination. This pattern of relief is being implemented across cities and districts nationally. We have over 1,000 corona warriors at the top who are presiding over the Youth Congress machinery of workers across the country. There are states where work is less because of a low degree of pandemic but there are places where it is intense, like Mumbai, UP, Telangana, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
How did you suddenly ramp up?
Rahul Gandhi alerted us. On March 1, 2020, he asked us to stay ready and we started immediately after it appeared like crisis time. On March 7, 2021, when Rahul came for the meeting of the national executive, he again asked us to remain alert for a future pandemic emergency. The resolution we passed in that meeting listing our future agenda mentioned three issues – farmers, unemployment and pandemic. We did not let our guard down. There was a second wave around the world. The government should have been alert to it.
Covid is there and patients are dying. But they are not dying because of infections, they are dying because they are not getting bed, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. You need it at the right time. So, in the absence of this help, people are panicking. One suffers and the other patients lose morale, and that is the source of mass panic. Somewhere, there is a lack of coordination between hospitals and governments and doctors. We are paying a price for that lack of vision.
How do you plan to move ahead with relief work when there is a scarcity of basic requirements?
If the government does not plan for the future, it will only get worse. Our volunteers are in tears. We all are ready to work but the infrastructure has to be there. We are the biggest manufacturer of oxygen but there is looting going on for it. In such situations, there are elements who look for “aapda me awsar” (opportunity in crisis). We are sad that we cannot help everyone who approaches us.
Does the involvement of a Congress outfit raise political issues in relief?
This is no time for politics. This is time to help people without any political motivation. This has been Rahul Gandhi’s directive to us. See, people don’t realise that IYC through the years has been involved in disaster relief, be it Uttarakhand floods or Kerala or Madhya Pradesh. Every state. But because it was confined to a state, our work did not come to light. But this pandemic is a national crisis, so it is getting noticed. We helped lakhs of migrants reach home last year, provided food and relief to them. No organisation in the world can claim to have done what we have done as a youth outfit, even though there are organisations which are more resourceful. Only 5% of what we do is being put out by us in public. Most of our work is done quietly.
What is the role of social media in pandemic relief?
Only the emergency cases come through social media. But maximum work happens through our network of volunteers across districts who are reached through personal contacts or WhatsApp. It is teamwork. All state presidents and national office bearers are working with commitment. I am tagged on social media because I am the president. Else, it is an army of faceless and selfless IYC workers.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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