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:
“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,” 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.