(All over India, CPIML comrades have been helping to organise help for Covid-affected persons and communities, in a variety of ways. Here are reports from some our comrades involved in the relief work.)
- Sucheta De
The deadly Covid second wave of April-May 2021 hit Delhi very badly after the first wave receded last December. According to official data, the infection rate this time was as high as 28,395 new cases each day in mid April. And the death rate was as high as 448 deaths each day in early May. May us not forget the fact that official Covid data hugely underreports the actual number of cases and deaths.
The fact that the latest wave was deadliest than all last waves shows how unprepared the Modi government is to deal with the Pandemic despite the fact that it had one year to set its priorities right. They found time to tighten their control over Delhi government through LG, but they did not consider it necessary to prepare the city for facing the Pandemic in last one year. The role of the AAP run Delhi government in letting so many people die cannot be neglected as well.
As soon as the latest wave hit Delhi, the unpreparedness of the city’s health infrastructure became evident to the entire world. The cry for oxygen for breathless Covid patients emerged from each and every neighbourhood of Delhi. Hundreds of people were dying within few days due to lack of oxygen supply. Even hospitals were sending out SOS messages for supply for oxygen cylinders. Several people died in the city’s well known hospitals because they could not be provided with oxygen support. A black market of oxygen cylinders started operating while people were dying in need of oxygen. A 10-20 Litre Cylinder costed around Rs 40-50 thousand rupees when the pandemic reached its peak this time. Timely preparedness on part of the AAP Government in Delhi in arranging enough Cryogenic tankers and their transport to ensure oxygen supply for medical use could have saved many lives.
The collapse of health infrastructure made the city’s population utterly helpless in the face of infection upsurge. Finding a hospital bed with oxygen became nearly impossible for the patients; harder still to find an ICU bed. The Delhi Government’s Corona App seldom offered updated information about availability of beds. Even when beds were reported available in the dashboard, getting a bed became another struggle as several hospitals denied availability when asked by attendants of patients. Attendants helping Covid patients had to stand in queues for hours to get medicines prescribed by doctors.
As soon as the city started feeling the heat of the pandemic, AICCTU, AISA and CPIML activists started preparing for providing help to people struggling to survive the medical emergency. Several of our own activists fell ill, many lost their closest kin. We lost Comrade Om Prakash Sharma, veteran AICCTU activist and CPIML member in the pandemic. Setting up a help desk was the need of the hour.
The Help Desk provided verified information on Oxygen, medicine and hospital bed availability. Our activists, especially from Jamia Milia Islamia, helped in refilling of Oxygen. Waiting for hours to procure medicine, ensuring a hospital bed by standing in queue, moving around the city to verify sources of Oxygen refilling and helping patient to get Oxygen in time - these were the main activities our volunteers were engaged in initially.
An important initiative of the help desk has been to start free auto ambulance service in the city. Two autos with Oxygen cylinders are made available from AICCTU to transport patients to hospitals. The auto ambulance service has helped many patients in need till now.
While the city was struggling for Oxygen, the extreme vulnerability of the workers and residents of slums to survive the Corona wave became clear. Most of the informal workers and street vendors lost their jobs as soon as lockdown was announced in mid April. They were left without money, food or medical care by the government.
Delhi experienced the painful journey of the migrant workers leaving the city in hunger and insecurity last year. Millions of migrant and informal workers had to experience hunger due to inaccessibility to Public Distribution System. One year has passed since then. But still the workers and slum residents do not have access to ration card and PDS.
The situation of sanitation and health workers are especially vulnerable. They are the ones who are carrying the burden of the City’s fight against Corona. But they are the ones who have been denied basic rights and dignity of workers. Most of the sanitation workers of Delhi have not got regular wages in last one year. They have been made to work without payment. They do not have access to health facilities as public health infrastructure are in the shatters. From testing for Corona to access to food, medicine, oxygen and hospital bed, everything is kept far away from them. Needless to say that most of the sanitation workers are from Dalit community and one of the most discriminated in this battle for survival in Pandemic.
While our battle to ensure rights of the workers continue, our help desk is reaching out to hundreds of workers in distress with ration kits and mask/sanitiser. Activists from working class background themselves are taking initiative to arrange help. A significant section of progressive civil society have reached out to help our initiative financially. The solidarity of people with each other in such time of distress generates comfort and hope to fight for what residents of Delhi truly deserve.
While we aspire to continue our help desk as long as possible and needed, we also feel the need to raise voice to ensure our rights.
CPIML MLA from Bagodar in Jharkhand Vinod Kumar Singh has been tirelessly working to protect people from Covid-19, not only in his own constituency Bagodar but across the Giridih District and in other parts of Jharkhand as well.
Anticipating the danger of a 2nd wave of Covid, Bagodar MLA Vinod Kumar Singh used his MLA fund as well as people's contributions to build resources in the Community Health Centre at Bagodar and Birni which had very limited resources. As a result, Bagodar CHC is today treating the maximum number of Covid patients after the District Hospital. It is worth noting that Comrade Vinod, with the people's cooperation, was the first to equip the Bagodar Government Hospital with jumbo oxygen cylinders so that patients should not suffer for lack of oxygen. Very soon people contributed dozens of cylinders to the Bagodar CHC. He also equipped a 10-bed ward with an oxygen pipe line from his MLA fund, and ten more beds were provided with oxygen pipe line from people's contributions. Responding to the MLA's appeal, people also contributed dozens of jumbo cylinders, ACs, water coolers, electric coolers, geysers, PPE kits, oxygen masks etc to the Bagodar CHC. The Birni PHC was provided with over half a dozen jumbo cylinders; in addition, 10 beds were equipped with oxygen from the MLA fund.
Moreover, after the death of a young man due to Covid at the Bagodar PHC when his own family stood aside out of fear, Vinod Singh and his comrades arranged wood and had the last rites performed. Vinod Singh also regularly inspected the Covid ward of a private clinic in Saria. At such a time when even family members are afraid to participate in the last rites of a Covid victim, Vinod Singh went to Bagodar, Adwara, Pathaldiha and many rural areas to give courage to the victims' families by showing respect at the victim’s funeral.
20 jumbo cylinders were arranged for the Community Health Centres at Bagodar and Birni with citizens' contributions through Comrade Vinod Singh's initiative. Vinod Singh's successful arrangement of oxygen through people's contribution has earned him the love and respect of common people in this horrific pandemic. One the one hand he arranged more than 18 jumbo oxygen cylinders with the common people's cooperation while he also promptly connected 10 beds each at Bagodar CHC and Birni CHC to oxygen pipe lines through his MLA fund so that Covid patients get an uninterrupted and adequate supply of oxygen. Similarly, he arranged 30 oxygen beds within one month in Bagodar constituency. As a result of his efforts Covid patients will not suffer for lack of oxygen.
To ease things a little for sorrowing families, MLA Vinod Singh also arranged hearses for carrying dead bodies of Covid victims for the last rites. He also arranged drivers for the hearses and also put phone numbers of drivers in the public domain so that the families do not face any difficulties.
It is due to Vinod Singh's remarkable initiatives that Covid patients in Bagodar constituency are getting the most dignified and effective treatment in the District. Patients from nearby areas are also coming here to get treated.
While the CPIML MLA is constantly striving to strengthen the Health Centres, the other MLAs and MPs of the District are conspicuous by their absence, and people are showing their anger against this. BJP State President and Jharkhand's first Chief Minister Babulal Marandi has vanished from the neighbouring Rajdhanwar constituency.
No other people's representative in the District is coming forward in this critical situation when CPIML. MLA Vinod Singh submitted a letter to DDC recommending Rs 10 lakhs from his MLA fund to be spent on oxygen and other medical facilities for Covid patients at the Sadar Hospital. People are appreciating and respecting Vinod Singh for caring about the Sadar Hospital which is outside his constituency.
Seeing Covid entrench itself in the rural areas and the absence of testing on a war footing, Vinod Singh formed health workers' teams and ensured Covid testing for hundreds of villagers in Bagodar's Beko, Dorio, Mahuri and other villages.
MLA Vinod Singh along with the Giridih District administration has started a Covid-19 awareness campaign in villages in Bagodar constituency. An ambulance was also arranged for this which was flagged off by Vinod Singh in the presence of health workers. The CSC COVID Care van will reach villages for creating awareness as well as for Covid testing.
Comrade Vinod Singh has played an exemplary role as a communist people’s representative during the pandemic, from arranging essential medical equipment to giving solace and courage to the suffering and sorrowing people.
The Covid Help Centre organized by CPIML-AISA-RYA at Chhajjubagh in Patna started food and medicine services for the needy from 28 April 2021. The demand for food and medicine has increased hugely along with demands for beds and oxygen.
The Help Centre also has doctors who are giving advice and consultation. They include Dr PNP Pal, Dr Satyajit, Dr Aleem Akhtar and Dr Prakash. The Help Centre has also received calls with serious complaints about some private hospitals, like discharging the patient saying that they have run out of oxygen. In some cases this has resulted in the death of the patient.
Teams to assist the Covid Help Centre are visiting NMCH, PMCH and Patna AIMS and giving regular feedback to the Help Centre.
As part of the relief campaign being organized by the Covid Help Centre run by CPIML-AISA-RYA, rations were distributed to 150 poor families struggling with lockdown-induced hunger and joblessness in Patna's Ramakrishna Nagar Thana (Bhupatinagar Manjhi Tola), Eastern Lohanipur in Kadamkuan Thana (Mahmudichak) and Western Lohanipur (Buddha Smriti footpath), and many other colonies, as well as among rickshaw pullers, street vendors and other informal sector workers .
Each ration packet contains 5 kg rice, 2 kg atta, 1 kg dal, 2 kg potatoes, 1 kg onions, 1 kg salt, 1 soap, and 3 masks. Beaten rice (chivda) and jaggery packets are also being distributed among footpath vendors. The Covid Help Centre is getting every kind of help from many social activists and civil society.
CPIML organized statewide protests across Uttar Pradesh on 25 April against the government's failure to curb Covid deaths. The protests were held between 12 noon and 1 pm at houses, party offices and work places while observing Covid protocol. Protesters held placards with slogans and demands, posted pictures and videos on social media, and memorandums were sent via email from many Districts to the government.
The main issues and demands raised through the protests were: Modi-Yogi governments’ accountability for deaths due to shortage of ambulances, beds, oxygen and ventilators; demand for guarantee of availability of ambulances, beds, ICUs, oxygen, ventilators, medicines and injections; demand to curb black-marketing of oxygen, Remdesivir and other life-saving drugs; free Covid treatment for all at government and private hospitals; increase Covid testing and ensure quick results; Covid treatment at District and Block level hospitals; free Covid vaccination for all; government should bear cost of vaccination and Covid treatment at private hospitals; ensure safe return of migrant workers and Rs 10000 per month subsistence allowance for 3 months and free rations for 6 months; generate work in MNREGA and provide work on similar lines for urban poor also.
The criminal negligence by the Modi-Yogi governments in handling the second wave of Covid is unforgivable. If they had used the last one year to arrange beds, oxygen etc, the current dance of death could have been avoided. In some hospitals there are ventilators but no technicians to operate them. The Yogi government learnt nothing from the horrific experience of oxygen shortage deaths at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur. Uttar Pradesh has become Shamsan (Crematorium) Pradesh due to the humongous criminal negligence of Yogi-Modi. Yogi must take responsibility and resign from the post of Chief Minister.
The protests were held across Uttar Pradesh at Lucknow, Prayagraj, Banaras, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Kanpur, Mathura, Sonbhadra, and other Districts. CPIML State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav said that scientists have warned that Corona infection will be even worse in the month of May and the government should course correct and give priority to saving human lives instead of winning votes and elections.
(Brief reports from some of our young comrades summarising the kind of work they have been doing.)