This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sahil Pathak. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Meet Umang And Faraz, The Creators Of Covid19-Twitter And Covid19-Resources

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

It is so unfortunate and admirable at the same time to see young students and volunteers from all across the country stepping up to help battle the second wave of Covid when the government seems to have turned an blind eye over the same.

There are not many instances in modern history when people stepped up as the chosen government failed to subsidise basic amenities to its crippling nation amidst a fatal pandemic.

As the second wave of Covid-19 hit the country, the healthcare system collapsed and began running out of essential resources such as oxygen cylinders and beds needed to supplement the lives of hard-hit patients. Being observed since the beginning of March, the second wave of the virus caused a rapid shortage of essentials in hospitals across the country. Because of no efficient channel run by the government to locate Covid resources, the youth of the land utilised the internet to make way for the same.

Umang Galaiya, a young software engineer, is one of the many volunteers who realised the dire need to step up as India surpassed Brazil, Russia, Italy and the UK, second only to America, to become the country with the highest number of recorded Covid-19 infected individuals. “If patients are able to search on Twitter efficiently, they would be able to find the resources they are looking for,” said Umang, creator of covid19-twitter. He added:

“If patients are able to search on Twitter efficiently, they would be able to find the resources they are looking for,” said Umang, creator of covid19-twitter.

“At the time I made the website, Twitter was more-or-less a centralised database of people looking for resources or of people posting about them. But since Twitter’s advanced search isn’t that intuitive for users, it made sense to have another website where users could select the things they were looking for and automatically generate an advanced Twitter search query.”

Websites like the one by Umang have been making headlines across social media. “People who’ve found these websites to be helpful are amplifying it, including those with a following of millions of followers, such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Biswa Kalyan Rath and Kenny Sebastian, to name a few,” Umang said.

The website has also featured on various news portals as well.

“Covid-twitter is a simple aggregator tool that lets you search for medicines, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, etc. for your city. Make sure you tick the right boxes and the results will show verified leads for the concerned information,” Indian Express reported on the utility of the website.

Regarding the authenticity of the information shared through the website, Umang said, “I don’t store any tweets and neither do I personally verify any of them. For the tweets, I just rely on people to use the word “verified” in their tweets judiciously.” Because of the absence of any trusted source of verification, I asked Umang if there had been any trouble because of this, to which he said, “None that I’m aware of. Information gets outdated quickly, though. If I verify that someone has ten cylinders in stock in Delhi right now, they would have run out all 10 in the next half an hour. So the “verified” information would become unverified after an hour. That’s why I try sorting by Latest and ask people to manually click on Latest in case it doesn’t get sorted automatically.” 

Another efficient website, Covid-19 resources, which has over 300,000 visits to date, was started casually while directing people in need of comprehensive lists of available resources in Delhi to the website. “I met a few people on Instagram and other social media platforms who were also helping people locate resources. I got in touch with them and decided to scale up the process to help people throughout the country, and not just limited to the Capital,” said Faraz Iqbal, a second-year engineering student at the Aligarh Muslim University, told me while talking about the developmental process of the website.

“I gathered around a bunch of 25-30 volunteers, allotted them each with a state and the kind of work they could do for the website to run and serve the motive effectively,” said Covid-19 resources creator Faraz Iqbal.

“I gathered around a bunch of 25-30 volunteers, allotted them each with a state and the kind of work they could do for the website to run and serve the motive effectively,” Faraz is accompanied by many volunteers, and one of them is Saumya Sagarika, whom I had the opportunity to talk to about the ongoing efforts made by people of her likes to aid the people of the country.

“I get non-stop calls throughout the day by people in dire need of resources, they get angry at times when we fail at providing the right resources at the right time, though it is rare and is caused not because of our inefficiency but because of the sheer lack of resources at our disposal,” she Saumya.

All these websites could have been made and run by the government, but unfortunately, it is not. Let us try to understand, however, where and how the government of India is using its power and resources in these trying times. A budget of Rs 201.58 crores has sanctioned by the government of India to set up PSA oxygen plants across the country, out of which only 33 have been set up till date. A PSA oxygen plant with a capacity to deliver 24 cylinders every day costs about Rs 33 lakhs and takes a span of about two weeks to be built.

The budget was allocated almost a year after the virus was observed in the country. Nothing, I repeat, nothing crucial was done in the span of this one year to aid the lives of the dying citizens. Surprisingly enough, amidst all of this, the work to build Central Vista (Prime Minister’s New Residence) is going in continuity without any halt, and the budget for the project, which is expected to be finished by the 2024 before the general elections, is Rs 20,000 crores. Let me try to bring the amount to a comparative for you to better understand where this amount could have been used and how.

We as a country are witnessing a death toll of tens of thousands of people everyday due to lack of amenities such as oxygen cylinders, ventilators and beds. With an amount as big as Rs 20,000 crores, one could have built around 61,000 PSA oxygen plants, delivering in total about 15,00,000 oxygen cylinders each day. The amount sanctioned for setting up oxygen plants is nowhere near the amount sanctioned for building up the new residence for the Prime Minister. It is, I believe, just a matter of priority.

Dying due to the lack of essential resources is nothing but taking our one of the most important fundamental rights away i.e., the right to life. A successful democracy can only be the one that guarantees its citizens the right to protect their own life and liberty. In India, the Protection of Life and Personal Liberty is a fundamental right granted to citizens under Part III of the Constitution of India, 1950. The government of India should be held on trial to murder its citizens by not providing them with the essentials of humans existence. I rest my case.

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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