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 world came under an 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. The complacent attitude, massive crowd-pulling events like election rallies, and Kumbh Mela worsened the situation. According to Anthony Fauci, the US-based global expert on Corona, India lowered its guard against the virus. 

Noted medical journal Lancet 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, and 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 to alleviate their pain. 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 beds, medical oxygen, medicines, injections, I.C.U., 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 many casualties were happening, several unnoticed groups of the 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 searching for food in the animal world.

How did the groups operate?

Hitesh-a data scientist and Bangalore reside, was a part of such an initiative. 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, and Instagram to arrange the required medical attention pleaded by the relatives of the patients. He could call himself a proud S.O.S. call warrior. 

These Pan-India groups consisted of 1 or 2 active members from significant 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 integrity, calling the hospital, plasma donors, oxygen cylinder vendors, and so on to arrange the needs 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 happening in the medical oxygen supply. Many persons had already been duped by con artists who demanded advanced money before providing service. So, the S.O.S. call warriors contacted 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 them. It’s like a virtual middleman concept where nobody interacts with the patients, oxygen vendors, or anybody. Sometimes though, a few members exposed themselves to covid by physically checking the leads. Many such groups operated in cities, towns, and corporate offices across India. 

As most of the team didn’t belong to the medical fraternity, fellow doctors, plasma donors, and other medical equipment suppliers were inducted into the S.O.S. group to guide them in this pursuit. 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 make infeasible requests. 

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

The philanthropy activity had found its way into the international circuit as well. Many N.R.I.s or Indian students pursuing higher education in foreign universities were also involved in arranging the needed medical support back home in India using their social media presence.

With the good intent behind the proactive group, the question comes: What was the success rate of providing the service to the needy? The answer is only 5-10%. Most of the time, many leads were infeasible or useless after hundreds of calls and thorough search/coordination. 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 as the spirit/josh dwindles a bit? Hell no. 

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

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 frontline covid warriors. 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 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. But let’s celebrate these unsung heroes who voluntarily jumped into the covid war to contribute their bit. This incident proves that humanity exists, and it takes a pandemic to amplify that hope. A big heartfelt salute to these S.O.S. call warriors!


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