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Second Wave: Why Were Delhi Hospitals Left With Just A Few Hours Of Oxygen?

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The second wave of Covid-19 has hit India by a storm and PM Narendra Modi himself accepted this in his address on April 20, 2021. The address was mocked by many as a response to the nationwide cry for help where Indians are desperately begging for a response from the PM on the situation as it has been unfolding. But all that the PM could essentially manage to convey was, “Every person is on his own. Until the West Bengal elections are underway, I can neither do anything nor will I try. So please don’t bother yourselves to call me to save you all.”

Over the past week, Delhi has been seeing a rapid rise of over 25,000 new cases per day, In the same week, the daily death toll has breached the 200-mark thrice and 300-mark once.

Calls from Delhi-NCR hospitals for shortage of medical oxygen has been growing for the past 3-4 days. Yet, the grim reality only dawned upon Delhiites on the evening of April 21, when hospitals rang the emergency alarm of having only a few hours of oxygen left for the patients.

A worker arranges medical oxygen cylinders to transport to hospitals for the Covid-19 coronavirus treatment in a facility on the outskirts of Hyderabad on April 23, 2021. Credit: Getty Images

For the next 24 hours, Indians stormed Twitter to raise awareness regarding this dire situation that was unfolding in the heart of India, in the country’s own capital. Hospitals, students, homemakers, professionals and NGOs cried, begged and pleaded for help from the Central government and Delhi’s state government.

The High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court of India had to issue directions and take the matters into their own hands, but it was too late as many hospitals by then had run out of medical oxygen already. This was confirmed by the State Government of Delhi itself by issuing a list of public and private hospitals with the status of medical oxygen at that point of time.

On April 21, at 11pm, Delhi lost 249 people to Covid-19 and on April 22, it lost 306. How many lives did we lose because of the scarcity of oxygen?

Who will answer this? Which government official will come forward and justify? Which minister? Who will resign? Who will be terminated for t his loss? Why will they give any f#ck, literally any f#cks at all, when there is no accountability for any negligence or misdoing? What are us Delhiites/Indians? Are we animals? Worms? Or even worse than that?

We used to get punished for not bringing our notebooks to class, for bunking a period, for not being attentive, not being respectful, not being docile. Where is that punishment today? Are we all right about this because it’s all according to the plan? Because people are meant to die one day or another and that’s normal? Then why do we freak out when there is a terrorist attack?

Today, what transpired in Delhi with the oxygen shortage, was no less than a terrorist attack. It cannot be termed otherwise. Today was a blot on the history of India and the incumbent governments who had more than sufficient time on their hands to stop this chaos from turning into a disaster. They had more than required resources, intellectual support, invaluable experience and guidance, but even then, they miserably failed Delhi, its people and the entire country along with the world, who witnessed first-hand ground-breaking reality of the Narendra Modi-led Indian response to Covid-19.

Our PM has not held a single press conference in the past seven years except one, in which also he did not answer a single question directed at him. The Home Minister, meanwhile, has been so busy with election rallies in West Bengal that he has forgotten that there is any India beyond that one poll-bound state.

What kind of democracy must India be called, if not a monarchy?

Indians deserve far better than a few fake hollow words of respect, courage, discipline, motivation and inspiration, which the Prime Minister of India likes to casually throw around, just like a Santa Claus throws away candies and chocolate bars on Christmas.

While the BJP and its leaders flourish, the high officers of India face a severe catastrophic and unprecedented decline in both their morals and standing. While Delhi suffered in broad daylight, our national leaders watched in silence without a frown on their faces.

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  1. Bhavana Bhagya

    My heart aches whenever I think that what could have been managed wasn’t. Every major institution dusted off their responsibility before and after the turmoil. You’re absolutely correct in labeling it as a terrorist attack,because it was nothing less than that, only worse. Kudos to you for documenting it in a way that has a potential to make people ponder, those people who literally have considered this government aka Modi, God. My heart and prayers go out to each family who had to face the brunt of the calamity only because priorities weren’t set straight by the power greedy monsters.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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