S.O.S. call warriors

Satyakam Ray

Remember the Pandemic and S.O.S. calls posted on social media asking for immediate help for corona victims. A bunch of behind-the-curtain people worked day and night to address the S.O.S. calls and procure the needed things. Read on to find out more about this noble initiative...

The whole world came under the wraps of an unwanted unprecedented pandemic, and India was no exception. During the 1st wave, India got moderate success in curbing the pandemic by going through a national level lockdown. After that, govt. got a few months to prepare for the subsequent wave and enhance our medical infrastructure. According to Anthony Fauci, the US-based global expert on Corona, India lowered its guard against the virus after that. The complacent attitude, massive crowd-pulling events like election rallies, Kumbh Mela made the situation worse. 

Noted medical journal Lancet in its article had slammed PM Modi’s incompetence and lack of foresight for India’s despicable position during the 2nd wave. Floating dead bodies on the Ganges, patients dying outside the hospitals due to lack of oxygen, medical beds are things of the past now. But it’s a sad reminder of what went wrong in public health infrastructure. The judiciary did its bit to bring some order in the directionless crisis management. But it was not enough.

A few Samaritans from different walks of life came forward to help the needy ones to alleviate the pain to some extent. Along with frontline covid warriors like doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and police, these behind-the-curtain warriors were addressing the S.O.S calls posted on social media by the relatives of the patients who were in dire need of any of these- hospital bed, medical oxygen, medicines, injections, ICU, ventilators, plasma, food, money or little solace. 

A similar analogy can be thought of During World War II. When opposing countries were fighting against each other, and a lot of casualties were happening, being unnoticed several groups of International Red cross worked day and night voluntarily to help the war victims often without any appreciation or recognition. Just like the worker ants work silently in a group search for food in the animal world.

How did the groups operate?

Hitesh-a data scientist and Bangalore resident was a part of such an initiative. He could call himself a proud S.O.S call warrior. He was a member of a WhatsApp group where around 40 active participants were committed to the cause by spending at least 2-3 hours daily on calls, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram to arrange the required medical attention pleaded by the relatives of the patients. 

These Pan-India groups consisted of 1 or 2 active members from major cities plus the most affected small towns/cities. The person responsible for the city would look into all the details about that city alone- like getting the patient info and requirement, contacting the concerned person to verify its veracity, calling the hospital, plasma donors, oxygen cylinder vendors, and so on to arrange the requirements and finally guiding the patient to the most appropriate option available. It took a lot of time and patience to verify the leads as a lot of cheating activity was going on in the medical oxygen supply. Many persons had already been duped by conmen who demanded advanced money before providing service. So, the S.O.S. call warriors were contacting only those vendors who take money post-service from the patients. 

These selfless humanitarians had divided their team to address the concerns separately. One team took the amplified tweets/posts and contacted the given number/dm to verify the details. After that, they posted the same in the group chat session. The other team followed their leads to arrange the required things and gave back the details to the 1st team. Then the first team again contacted the patient and guided him/her. It’s like a virtual middleman concept where nobody interacted with the patients or the oxygen vendors or anybody in person. Sometimes though few members exposed themselves to covid by going to check the leads physically. Many such groups were operating in cities, towns, corporate offices across India. 

As most of the team didn’t belong to the medical fraternity, to guide them in this pursuit, fellow doctors, plasma donors, and other medical equipment suppliers were inducted into the S.O.S group. The doctors verified the practicality of providing the service considering the case and gave the team either a green signal to go ahead or a red signal to infeasible requests. 

The famed Dabbawallas of Mumbai, whose modus operandi has become a major attraction of various case studies across the ivy-league B-schools, work similarly. 

The philanthropy activity had found its way in the international circuits as well. Many NRIs or Indian students pursuing higher education in foreign universities were also part of the initiative to arrange the needed medical support back home in India using their social media presence.

With the good intent behind the pro-active group, the question comes what was the success rate of providing the service to the needy ones? The answer is only 5-10%. Most of the time, after hundreds of calls, thorough search/coordination many leads were often found to be infeasible or useless. Many received criticism from close family members for doing what they believed in as they gave a lot of time from their busy professional lives. But was the spirit/josh dwindled a bit? Hell no. 

Hitesh found his version of self-satisfaction by helping others to procure medical beds in ICU, oxygen cylinders, or even plasma. Though after putting in a hell of an effort, he succeeded in a few numbers of cases. The work that was meant to be done by the authority or the govt., was done by these selfless S.O.S. call warriors.

An analogy to Ramayana:

In the epic Ramayana, when Lord Ram planned to cross the sea to reach Ravana’s Lanka, a group of Banara(monkeys) came to his rescue. With the help of Banara sena, the seemingly impossible task got completed. Of course, the whole operation was guided by Lord Ram and Lord Laxman alongside Lord Hanuman. While the little Banara sena was busy doing its job with full zeal, the supposedly so-called Ram and Laxman (as described by people spiritually inclined to govt.) conspicuously abstained from the leadership role, they are entitled to. 

Recognition 

S.O.S. call workers didn’t get the social recognition they deserved like front-line covid warriors. Just like the Red Cross volunteers during World War II or the worker ants, the S.O.S. call warriors did their part selflessly without seeking any fame. But the zeal to serve humanity fueled the S.O.S. call warriors to work more. A simple pat on the back after seeing the smile on the face of a corona-affected person/family was enough for them to get back to attend the next call. 

As the situation has become steady, the effort of these S.O.S. call warriors is being forgotten from the public memory. Not to forget that a new Omicron variant is getting ready to create havoc in terms of 3rd wave. But let’s celebrate these unsung heroes, who jumped into the covid war voluntarily to contribute their bit. This incident proves that humanity exists, and it takes a pandemic situation to amplify that hope. A big heartfelt salute to these S.O.S. call warriors!

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