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In the Eye of the Pandemic; Stories from Covid Control Room

Catastrophes and disaster unravel, what is that really matters. Human cooperation, love which all the religions cherish and celebrate and is the core of the society. In the words of Arundhati roy, Pandemic is a portal, and Portal opens up possibility of newer realms

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At 4 am in the morning yesterday, a sobbing Daughter is pleading for an Oxygen Cylinder on Phone call. She is with her Father in an Ambulance in Meerut. Her voice is quavering as she says,” Bhayya, there is only 15 minutes OXYGEN is left in the cylinder. Please arrange, I have tried all the channels!  We get a call from Kanpur in UP that a patient needs ICU Bed immediately, and in 30 minutes, we get a follow up call, that he is no more, but his wife needs one now!

We get a request for Cylinder from a son that his Father needs Oxygen refill, we call him back at 5:30 am, he says you save another life, my father has become dear to God! A Sister calls to follow up for availability of Bed in Delhi, on finding that they didn’t get a bed, she pleads, just take my brother to Hospital for few hours and give him some medicines.

A Daughter calls from United States, says her Father needs a ventilator in Hyderabad immediately!  We get a call from Kanpur for Remdevisir injection, and the family is travel anywhere in North India, to procure! This has been my personal testimonials in the past few days, at a Covid helpline, and I have no intentions to send people into frenzy and panic by sensationalizing or making a hill out of a mole. And further, if I say what I have narrated above is the tip of the iceberg, it wouldn’t be even be an iota of exaggeration. The situation is severe across country, be it Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad. But the situation in UP & Delhi is catastrophic. Below are the few pointers from the “Eye” of the Pandemic.

Total Failure of the Healthcare:

 The number of requests we are getting for beds is unprecedented. The sheer mismatch between supply and Demand as appalling. When we receive calls for beds especially, in UP & Delhi, it is more of a consolation call, because deep down we know, there is not even a single bed available. People say it is pandemic, thus we are struggling, one profane realization is that pandemic, just exposed the broken system. People are left stranded on Hospitals, people who are in Hospitals don’t have access to Oxygen. There is a deadlock of deadlock on availability of Beds. There is no one to hear the people’s demands, complaints, angst, pain and distress.

Resource Management:

Picking the cue from the failure of healthcare, it is gut wrenching to see our Doctors, appealing on Social media platforms, to provide oxygen, else their patients will not see the light of the day. About 20 Covid patients died on Friday (23RD April) night at Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi due to low supply of oxygen. People are calling at the last embers of the night, for Oxygen refill, few of them avail. Rest are left at peril and at the hands of fate. Most of the calls for Oxygen cylinder have been coming for Oxygen cylinder refills from Hospitals.  The million-dollar question is when the Hospitals are unable to trace Oxygen cylinders, how are the patients expected to do the same. People losing lives due to non-availability of Oxygen is on us. Yes, it is on us!

No Governance, Full on arrogance:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an episode of Mann ki baat, addressed the students and advised them to answer the tough questions first. Ironically, our Prime minister isn’t even answering the easier questions, alas he is not in the examination Hall.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said in a meeting with the Hospital management, that if they raise ticket of lack of Oxygen, they will have to face the consequences. On April, 3rd DM had said that there were only 3 deaths in Kanpur, but more than hundred bodies were found in the crematorium. In Delhi the graveyard and burial site pyre photos are making the social media rounds.

In light of all this, silence of the top brass to accept the responsibility shows their drunkenness in power and sheer brazen arrogance. The MEA is busying writing letters to Australia for the image cover up confines in a nutshell, that the image is more important the precious human life. Haryana Chief minister, Manohar Lal khattar, having the audacity to say, that dead people numbers don’t matter as they are dead. The real problem is not we are failing, which could be comprehendible, but the government seems even not to be trying.

The Savior Social media:

This is not a sarcastic punchline. To further emphasis the first point, Social media has been the single biggest source of lead generation for people across the country. When the system has collapsed, this has been the unlikely pillar, which has kept the country afloat. The biggest initiatives, for Indian youth congress to ICLU, to SIO Taskforce is relying heavily on the majesty of social media. The tools such as Sprinkler, and other apps are doing more than the entire government machinery. This also gives hope that this also can be a tool for good. The statement is verified by the recent mandate of tightening the grip on Social media by the governments. Ironic isn’t it. ..

The taskforce which I am part of, hundreds and thousands are reaching us through social media. When all the doors are shut, they see this avenue as the last resort in many cases. We are receiving calls through day and night, with same intensity. This has been the God gifted communication boon which we are able to avail as fellow humans. Even the resource tracking is connected through this magical web. The only scary part, when the citizens are left to social media to save their lives, this isn’t a world which we imagine and lastly, what about the scores of individuals, who don’t have the access to smartphone and Twitter etc.

Silver lining on the cloud:

As Charles Dicken puts it brilliantly, this is the best of times and this is the worst of times. Margaret Mead, the Anthropologists said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Sooner we realize this, sooner we heal. In this milieu, Pyare khan, A Muslim businessman donating 400 metric ton of Oxygen reminds us of the greatest asset of Human civilization, empathy and love. We have had people helping across the religious line. Muslim friend, dialing for his Hindu friend’s mom and vice versa. We have seen how Sikh group in Ghaziabad, are opening Oxygen langar. We have seen, An Islamic group set up a Covid facility with Oxygen beds and countless selfless volunteers who are providing cylinders round the clock and many such brave hearts.

When we take a back seat, look at the larger socio-political canvas and the growing atmosphere of Authoritarian tendencies and shades of polarization, and then see the events unfolding, the collapse of Healthcare, Lack of resources, Incompetent Political leadership, and the burning pyre and perpetual filling of graveyards, and now how people are actually responding, we can relate with Margaret mead’s observation, that our empathy and love is the greatest asset of Human civilization. And this humane asset is what is keeping us afloat. Catastrophes and disaster unravel, what is that really matters. Human cooperation, love which all the religions cherish and celebrate is the core of the society. In the words of Arundhati Roy, Pandemic is a portal, and Portal opens up possibility of newer realms.

“Service to Humanity is the rent you pay for you stay on this Earth

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