Amidst the second COVID-19 wave, India is seeing an exponential rise in fresh cases putting immense pressure on the existing medical infrastructure in the country. Shortage of oxygen, hospital beds and medicines like Remdesivir has made it difficult for people to get the required care and help during these times. But all hope is not lost. Leaving everything behind, some good samaritans have stepped forward to assist in the fight against this virus.
Here is India Cares for you. A Twitter platform curated by a senior IPS officer from Odisha, Arun Bothra along with a team of civil servants, housewives and students. What started off as a small volunteering service in the first wave last year, has now turned into a full-fledged integrated organisation with 4,000 volunteers across the country.
People approach India Cares on Twitter with requests and they get on to the job of helping people. During the first wave last year the requests that came in were simple. Some requested for ration, basic medicines while some requested for a travel pass back home. The migrant workers’ situation got everyone’s attention and India Cares tried to help them get back to their villages along with their families. The second wave however made it more challenging as the requests changed to needing a hospital bed, oxygen cylinders or a plasma donor. The number of requests also increased greatly which just meant that volunteers from India Cares worked longer hours.
The situation became dire when hospitals from Delhi started tweeting out SOS calls in need of oxygen. One hospital after another put out tweets saying they only have oxygen left for a couple of hours. On the 21st of April, Rathi hospital in Delhi tweeted an SOS call asking for help. They had exhausted their oxygen supply and had over 70 patients in need of oxygen.
Foodgrains for children in an orphanage
‘When Rathi Hospital from Delhi put out an SOS call on Twitter, our core group took up the issue & contacted IPS officers in the capital. We were able to reach out to the hospital and were able to make arrangements to refill the oxygen cylinders’ says Manas Nayak, a volunteer with India Cares. He is also the head of communication, capital region, urban transport in Bhubaneshwar.
So how does India Cares work? People tweet out or message their needs and requests to either IPS Arun Bothra or India Cares directly. Once that’s done, the core group of volunteers then push the request to their subgroups for better & faster assistance. They have five verticals that handle different type of requests. If they can’t help, they push the requests to verified NGOs who then reach out to the patients.
‘We have helped over 1,500 to 2,000 people with oxygen or hospital beds or ventilators in the second wave in just one month. We have been able to help at least 65-70% of the SOS requests we receive’, Manas Nayak added. However, all SOS calls and messages are not catered to, affecting the mental health of volunteers. India Cares, therefore, offers counselling to its volunteers to keep their spirits high.
It is a 24x7 battle against COVID for these volunteers. They work endlessly to try and help as many COVID patients as they can while managing their professional work too. Sabita Chanda, a volunteer here has helped over 100 patients with getting a plasma donor. She is now proudly referred to as ‘Plasma Madam’ in India Cares and all plasma requests are handled by her.
Apart from civil servants, housewives and students, India Cares also has people with a medical background who assist with technical requests brought to them. ‘We have a team of 30 doctors who give free consultations to people with mild COVID symptoms,’ says Dr Vaishnavi, a volunteer at India Cares. She is also an officer in Karnataka Administrative Services and a nodal officer for COVID testing in BBMP.
India Cares donating masks & ration to an orphanage
India Cares has a pan India reach and a strong network of central and state governments officers who are ready to help people. ‘We are trying to bridge the gap between the government bodies and the needy. We try to amplify government’s work by using the system to reach out to people,’ Dr Vaishnavi told CNBC-TV18
India Cares has started a campaign ‘Vaccine Liya Kya’ to promote vaccination. It also has an ongoing campaign to encourage people who have recovered from COVID to donate for plasma therapy. They have now joined hands with Blue Dart to deliver essential medicines or consignments to people in India. If you want to volunteer, their telegram channel is an open platform for you to join.
Dr Vaishnavi emphasises that what the government does is one thing but when people join the movement the results multiply many folds.