New Delhi: “Have spent entire day, not find a single Covid bed. My situation is critical. Please help me (sic),” a Twitter user in Delhi posted the message on the social media site at 9:40 pm Monday. By 10:34 pm, a bed had been arranged for him.
Another person “urgently required” remdesivir for an acquaintance admitted in a Noida hospital. The medicine reached her in two hours.
In all these cases, the plea for help, posted on Twitter, had reached one person, Srinivas B.V., president of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), the youth wing of Indian National Congress, whose Twitter timeline is flooded with such requests.
While many users have posted messages on Twitter thanking Srinivas and the IYC for their help, sometimes — as in that of the Delhi patient in need of a bed and the beneficiary from Patna — Srinivas is the one to post updates and details of the IYC’s intervention.
Srinivas has over three lakh followers on Twitter where he gets tagged for help. The IYC and its president receive requests also on Facebook and WhatsApp and claim to have helped more than 20,000 people across India get hospital beds, oxygen cylinders or medicines for free since the second Covid wave hit the country. Srinivas credits “team effort” for this.
“[Phone] calls have also been coming non-stop since the beginning of this month,” Srinivas told ThePrint.
With the Delhi government announcing a one-week lockdown in the city to check the spread of Covid-19, the IYC is also in the process of setting up a langar or community kitchen for migrant workers. The Congress youth wing is also arranging for vaccinations for the migrants, said the IYC president.
While the young leader credits former Congress president and Wayanad MP, Rahul Gandhi, for the initiative to stand by those in need during the pandemic, Srinivas seems to have outshone Gandhi on social media, with people now tagging him, and not Gandhi, while seeking help.
Meanwhile, IYC national convener, Manu Jain, blamed the Indian government for the second wave of Covid in the country and said that the IYC is able to help Covid patients get beds because they have more updated information than the Delhi government portal set up for that very purpose.
Srinivas started his political journey as a member of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) in Bengaluru, and was appointed the IYC president by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in December 2020. He is the first Kannadiga to have occupied the post.
While its only in the past few weeks that the 41-year-old Srinivas has been drawing attention and praise on social media for his efforts in helping others during the pandemic, the IYC president said that he and the other party members have been doing this since March 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Covid lockdown in the country.
The IYC president, along with this team of over 125 people in the national capital and over 1,000 across India, begin attending to the requests from as early as 7 am and continue monitoring messages till at least 3:30 am, Srinivas told ThePrint.
“It is pure teamwork and their [the party members’] dedication to work for those in need,” said Srinivas.
Of the 125 IYC members in Delhi, 100 are out in the field, arranging for medical facilities, while the rest keep track of requests received on Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp and coordinate with hospitals to arrange the required facilities.
“We compile all these requests and segregate them and forward it to our state SOS IYC teams, who then address the requirement of the person in need,” said Manu Jain, national convenor, IYC.
Before a shortage of remdesivir and other Covid treatment drugs hit the country on 11 April, the IYC team would get the patients’ remdesivir prescription letters from the doctor, along with the hospital admission letters, their Covid positive reports and Aadhaar cards and connect them directly with a nearby pharmacy.
“Since the shortage of remdesivir and other Covid treatment drugs, we have been coordinating with the respective district magistrates or the sub-divisional magistrate or the medical officers and apprising them of urgent requirements in their areas. The government giving the drugs directly to the hospitals has made it more difficult to get these drugs,” said Jain.
Claiming that the Delhi government portal showing the availability of beds in hospitals in the city isn’t always “correct”, as the website is not updated on time, Jain said, “We are able to arrange for beds faster because we coordinate with hospitals and nodal officers every hour or two,” said Jain.
The IYC also claimed to have arranged for 5,000 plasma donations across India since last year. “On our request, Rahul Raj, who had been previously infected with coronavirus, travelled from Bengaluru to Delhi Sunday to donate plasma and save a life,” said Srinivas, giving an example of the IYC’s intervention.
Meanwhile, Jain blamed the government for the second Covid wave in the country. “The government is busy campaigning for elections in West Bengal. Meanwhile, people are stressed even when they have mild symptoms. We are just trying to calm them down and help them access the required services,” he said.
Following the Delhi government’s lockdown order, the IYC’s SOS team is bracing for things to get busier, Jain told ThePrint.
“The lockdown will again lead to a migrant crisis. We have already begun setting up a langar here in our headquarters [in Delhi’s Raisina Road] to feed the migrants like we did last year.”
On Sunday, the team distributed a two-day meal, masks and sanitisers to more than 2,000 migrants outside Nigambodh Ghat.
“We have helped hundreds of homeless migrants across India to reach their homes after the government declared an unplanned lockdown in March last year,” said Srinivas.
The IYC is also helping migrant workers in getting vaccinated, said the IYC president and claimed that they have helped at least 1,000 eligible migrants to get their doses in Delhi.
“After the government imposed the nationwide lockdown last year, our president Rahul Gandhi assembled the Indian Youth Congress members and told us to do one thing: ‘Go and save lives’. We will do whatever it costs to save those lives,” said Srinivas.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.