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Opinion: India’s Oxygen Crisis Wasn’t Unimaginable, It Was Unparalleled

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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.

India is a country of multiple religions, numerous languages and various cultures, but whenever there are challenges, India comes together and shows unity. There are no Hindu-Muslim riots; the cultural differences don’t matter; the only thing that matters is that we have to face the problem together and stand with our country. That’s what makes India great.

A great country doesn’t need to have superweapons, supremacy above dozens of countries. The biggest reserve of the great country is its own people, the people who stand together, the people who believe in the country’s unity, and more importantly, people who don’t take advantage of an adverse situation.

Oxygen Covid
Representative Image. Source: flickr

Indians did a transcendent job during this COVID pandemic. We have seen people like Rant Tata, Sonu Sood, Youth Congress National President B V Srinivas, the lady with the greatest hard Kallamma and many more. So many people came forward to help each other.

Even students of this country came forward to help their nation. I’ve seen my classmates helping others by finding oxygen cylinders and hospital beds for COVID patients. We, as a nation, did a great job fighting against this deadly virus.

Did We Get Help From Our Government In Fighting This Microscopic Enemy?

This is the real question many people are wondering about. People were waiting for our Home Minister for some action, but he disappointed every Indian. Things became so bad that a student union filed a missing complaint against the Home Minister. Even after that, Mr Shah was missing. I guess the Delhi Police failed to find him.

The effect of this pandemic could have been lessened if our government had even thought about the second wave of the corona, but we can’t blame them because they were busy in elections. Our Prime Minister Narendra, Modi Ji. was acting as the star campaigner of the Bhartiya Janta Party.

Oxygen is the life gas that India cried for during this pandemic. This type of Oxygen shortage has never been witnessed before, but this time it was predicted. However, the GOI never took this warning seriously even when there was an oxygen shortage before in the Modi-Shah government when 60 children died in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, due to lack of oxygen in August 2017.

There were many cases like the above mentioned, but even after this, the Modi Government ignored the warnings, which lead to the death of thousands of COVID patients. So, this was the negligible help that we got from our government in fighting this microscopic enemy.

Here Is A Quick Scenario Of Oxygen Shortage Throughout This Pandemic

India Faces Oxygen Crisis As Covid-19 Cases Mount
Representative Image. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

India exported 9,301 metric tonnes of oxygen across the world between April 2020 and January 2021. In comparison, the country had exported only 4,502 metric tonnes of oxygen in FY20. The oxygen supplied was in liquid form and could be used for both industrial and medical use.

However, the demand for oxygen in India was not as high during the aforementioned period. During the first wave, the demand for liquid medical oxygen (LMO) increased from 700 metric tonnes per day (MTPD) to 2,800 MTPD. But during the second wave, it has skyrocketed to 5,000 MTPD.

It was only in the second week of April when demand for medical oxygen in India witnessed a five-fold jump, according to Crisil. The country produces over 7,000 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen per day, which indicates that’s where the problem lies. So why didn’t the GOI work on this?

Opposition Attacks Modi Government

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that the Narendra Modi government’s lack of planning was responsible for the shortage of oxygen that devastated lives in the second wave of the pandemic, arguing that the Centre must be held accountable for the crisis.

Continuing her social media series titled “Who is responsible”, Priyanka said that the oxygen crisis that killed a large number of COVID patients occurred because the Centre ignored specific warnings by a parliamentary committee as well as the government’s own empowered group on the pandemic, a charge the Congress has levelled several times in the recent past.

She explained how India was capable of producing the required quantity of oxygen to prevent any crisis.

Pointing out that the demand for oxygen at the peak of COVID-19 was 8,944 tonnes per day, Priyanka said, “This means that the oxygen shortfall at the peak of this wave was less than 1,500MT (as India’s capacity to produce oxygen stood at 7,500MT per day). So, what went wrong? The Modi government increased its oxygen exports by over 700% in 2020, a pandemic year. It also made no investments towards the early import of surplus oxygen.”

But Narendra Modi ignored it. Sometimes he forgets that he is the representative of the world’s largest democratic country; the government should listen to the opposition.

There was a time we refer to as the golden period of Democratic India when leaders fought with each other in parliament but also listened to each other. There was a time when it didn’t matter which party you belonged to while assigning any task. The only thing that matters is what you are capable of.

Personally, I think the number of deaths could have been minimised if the GOI took this pandemic seriously and did something for oxygen and ICU beds.

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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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