BV Srinivas, president of the Indian Youth Congress, has emerged as the man to contact in the past one month for many people, as far as COVID-related emergencies are concerned.
The youth leader’s phone rings incessantly. WhatsApp messages and texts clog his phone with appeals for help and his Twitter handle is tagged by countless inquiries from across the country.
Srinivas and the Indian Youth Congress have set up four centres in Maharashtra, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai to constantly monitor and get in touch with citizens across the country who are reaching out for help.
“We receive nearly 10,000 requests every day and inquiries about hospital beds, oxygen, Remdesivir, and plasma. Through our workers and volunteers, we have been able to help out almost every single one of them,” Srinivas told Moneycontrol.
They have a team of close to 1,000 volunteers, including 100 from New Delhi.
How do they provide relief?
In Delhi, one of the epicenters of the second wave of the pandemic in India, the Youth Congress is working in association with six hospitals to constantly monitor the situation and the availability of beds.
“One or two volunteers are stationed outside hospitals to keep checking the availability of beds. We then we pass on this information to patients,” a volunteer from Delhi said.
Members of the youth congress have also been asked to buy oxygen cylinders for the last month.
"We had asked some of our volunteers to buy five cylinders, each, at the start of April when the cases started rising in Delhi," Srinivas said.
So far, volunteers have bought around 100 oxygen cylinders from manufacturers and are distributing them across the city to help out the patients.
“We first help those patients who want to buy their own oxygen tanks get in touch with the suppliers. If they can’t afford to buy a tank, we give them one of our own and after three-four days, get the cylinders refilled again,” the volunteer said.
Apart from medical help, the volunteers have also started a food kitchen in their offices and are sending food packets to hospitals. Every day, over 2,000-3,000 food packets are sent to the families of those admitted to hospitals.
The volunteers add that they are also helping people to get vaccinated. “There are several who don’t know how to register and pay for vaccination. We are helping people with this, too. We have also started an awareness campaign for plasma donation. Donors have not been coming forward because of the many doubts they have. So we are running a campaign,” a volunteer said.
While the fight against the COVID-19 is far from over, Srinivas and his team are ready to work even harder. The virus has so far claimed 2,18,959 lives, and the total number of active cases stand at 34,13,642 on May 3.
“We are all working till 4 am now and want to push ourselves harder to help people. We are using our network to assist people,” Srinivas adds.
The organisation has also started reaching out to its members in states which are currently not engulfed by the second wave and are working to set up centres.
“On March 7, 2021, Rahul Gandhi told all national office-bearers in a meeting that the pandemic will surge again and you should be ready to help people. So we made a team of over 1,000 office-bearers from across the country and started work. Currently, all of them are working in the field,” BV Srinivas said.
Even foreign diplomats in Delhi have reached out to Srinivas’ organisation for help. On May 2, the New Zealand High Commission tagged the Indian Youth Congress on Twitter in an appeal for oxygen cylinders.
The initial tweet, which was later deleted by the New Zealand High Commission, also caused the High Commission to get entangled in a political row on May 3.
This was the second political incident after senior Congress leaders earlier criticised the Ministry of External Affairs for failing to deliver oxygen in a timely manner to the Philippines embassy last week.
What is the lesson he has learnt from his experience so far? Srinivas says funds, beds and equipment can be made available but governments need to work harder.