One only has to open Twitter to bear witness to the tsunami of SOS calls for oxygen, ICU beds and medicines from all over the country. India is witnessing an unprecedented Covid crisis that has claimed 2,30,168 lives so far and these are only the ones that have been reported. There has been a shortage of medical supplies which the government is struggling to address. At the same time however, plenty of ordinary people have come forward to help in whatever capacity they can. While some have been connecting people with oxygen suppliers, others have been arranging Remdesivir and keeping track of ICU bed availability. Even in Assam, the total covid death tally has now crossed 1500. Barak Valley now has an active caseload of 1218 with cases rising almost exponentially everyday.
But, the youth of Barak Valley hasn’t shirked away from its social responsibility. Recently, the organisation called Robinhood Army and some Muslim young men from Karimganj came forward to perform the last rites of a Hindu man after residents in the crematorium area refused to allow the cremation there. In Silchar too, multiple organisations, mostly run by college-going youngsters have been actively working to address the crisis, either by helping the patient’s kin find plasma donors or by maintaining a list of oxygen suppliers.
The News Core recently reached out to Subhadeep Purkayastha, a core member of the organisation Eco Alarmist. Eco Alarmist is well known in Silchar for its various activities concerning environmental conservation and also social service. Last year, just after the lockdown had been announced, Subhadeep and the team at Eco Alarmist had started an initiative called ‘Lockdown Protocol’. As part of the initiative, they had approached doctors in Barak Valley to make informative videos to spread awareness about the pandemic. The videos were then shared on social media. They also distributed meal kits to daily-wage earners in Katigorah and Borjhalenga Tea Estate. Some aid was also donated to the Ramakrishna Mission effort. They even installed sanitizer stands at the Goldighi Mall. Sanitation kits and used clothes were also distributed to the needy.
Recently, as covid numbers in Silchar were on the rise, Subhadeep was approached by Basundhara Paul Choudhury who runs a WhatsApp group to arrange Plasma donors. Her initiative has also been covered by the News Core. Subhadeep realised the entire process would be too haphazard on a WhatsApp group. So, he, with help from Tathagata Bhattacharjee, tweaked the Eco Alarmist website to facilitate the entire process of plasma donation. Subhadeep constantly updates the website with the information that he receives.
Just a while before interacting with the News Core, Subhadeep was notified that a B+ donor was required, which he forwarded. So, the group that is in charge of compiling data reverted that a donor was available. Their role is thus to connect the donor with the recipient. Apart from this, they are also maintaining lists of oxygen suppliers. They are also collaborating with startups like Druto, Freshbox and MedOnline to deliver food, groceries, vegetables and medicines for free to those in home isolation.
While it is difficult for them to keep a track of how many calls have been successfully answered, they have been at it relentlessly. Eco Alarmist has 6 core members but there are roundabout 50 volunteers who have actively lent support for various purposes. Basundhara’s WhatsApp group has also been helpful to them. An individual named Priyabrata Bhattacharjee has been actively compiling and verifying data concerning oxygen availability.
But Subhadeep says people have been hesitant to donate plasma. Blood donation camps have also been started in light of the impending shortage that could arise as vaccinated individuals are rendered ineligible to donate blood. 10-12 donors had so far been registered on the website. He had also come across a list of Covid patients from earlier this year. He tried to reach out to the ones on the list for plasma donation but most didn’t come forward. Barely, one or two from the list did. Although the youth has been actively participating in the blood donation drive, the overall demand to supply ratio for plasma donation is roughly 10:1, says Subhadeep.
Subhadeep is a student pursuing B.Tech. in Assam University. His appeals to everyone to stay home and to stay safe. Subhadeep also made a reference of Vishal Mishra’s song from last year, Muskurayega India and he quotes, “Agar saath de de saara India, toh muskurayega India”. Subhadeep is expecting people to support and amplify the initiative - and to also come forward with data regarding oxygen and ICU beds.