May 16, 2021
Party Cadre Giving Succour to People Amid Deadly Covid-19 Second Wave

AS India battled a deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, cadres of the CPI(M) and other mass organisations including trade union, student and youth have been providing succour to the people in distress. From supply of critical medicines and oxygen to daily meals, Party workers across the country are working day and night to alleviate sufferings of the people. As the second wave of the pandemic overwhelmed the healthcare system and exposed the government’s inefficiency and apathy, thousands of people were thrown from pillar to post for hospital beds and supply of medical oxygen and life-saving medicines. The party and mass organisations are pulling all their resources to help people in this hour of crisis.

The Covid-19 situation acquired grave proportions in Delhi since mid-April with the positivity rate steadily going beyond 30 per cent and the official daily mortality figure crossing 300 by the third week. The city’s testing facilities also took a hit and the test-trace-isolate-treat regime collapsed. The absence of first-line treatment centres and quarantine facilities and oxygen beds led to a rush to hospitals. Patients who were in need of critical care couldn’t be admitted due to the absence of systematic triaging in existing hospitals. The shortage of oxygen led to many avoidable deaths and even cremations were delayed.

There wasn’t an iota of accountability either from the AAP dispensation in Delhi or the BJP-led central government. The Party and the mass oragnisations have stepped in at this moment of humanitarian crisis to lead a social solidarity against this deadly pandemic. A team of youngsters from the DYFI, SFI and Party led the ground level work of mobilising gas cylinders, medicines, plasma, etc., and senior comrades coordinated hospital admissions to those in need of critical care.

A committee under the guidance of Brinda Karat was formed with state committee members, SFI-DYFI secretaries and volunteers. The initial days of the relief work had to be limited to the party cadre and its sympathisers, simply because of the enormous surge in infections. The party lost 11 comrades during this period with many still battling the virus. The party and its mass organisations together have extended help to around 300 people who were in need of hospital/oxygen beds, plasma, medicines, consultation with doctors, oxygen cylinders/concentrators, ambulance arrangements and volunteers for cremation till May 7.

The efforts of the DTF among the teaching fraternity, the construction workers union (CITU), nursing community (DSNU) and medical representatives (DSMRO) were commendable during this period. The intervention of the construction workers union made sure the Delhi government Covid-19 relief of Rs 5,000 reaches 1.93 lakh workers and 30 per cent of ESI hospital beds were reserved for them. Janasamskriti-Delhi has initiated a Covid-19 help-desk to coordinate relief in every district. It has also intervened in discussions to bring oxygen from Kerala, a surplus state, for Delhi. SFI in Delhi University has distributed a round of ration kits to construction workers and rickshaw-pullers in Vijay Nagar, besides running a helpline and encouraging students to donate plasma. Delhi State Nurses Union was always available to provide quality nursing care for Covid patients.

The Delhi CPI(M) has written twice to the chief minister and the lieutenant governor bringing to notice the gravity of the situation and putting forward a plan of action. The demands included augmenting health facilities with the inclusion of central government-run hospitals, quarantine facilities, increased testing, ensuring vaccinations, and food grain distribution and cash transfer for unorganised sector workers. The Party has now planned to expand the activity by forming a relief committee, mobilising at least five volunteers in every locality, ensuring PPE kits for those engaged, making a list of potential plasma donors, procuring oxygen cylinders, concentrators and medicines and providing ration for working class families affected due to the curfew. The state secretariat has already given a call to party sympathisers to generously contribute to a relief fund and also transferred Rs 5 lakh to meet the initial expenses. (P V Aniyan)

The impact of the second wave of Covid-19 on the common citizens is visible. Black marketeering of medicines is at its peak, many lives have been lost due to lack of oxygen. In such a situation, the CPI(M) and mass organisations have started relief work in Madhya Pradesh. Medicine kits are being distributed among Covid-19 patients. People are also being helped in reaching hospitals, and in making other arrangements like plasma. Most units have created teams of doctors who are available for emergency consultation and counselling.

The CPI(M) district office in Gwalior has been opened for relief work. Lunch and snacks are being arranged here for those stuck due to lockdown, and for the attendants of Covid-19 patients who are waiting outside hospitals. The party has also released a helpline number on which people can reach out for help. Help is also being made available to those in home isolation. Contact numbers for medical advice have also been circulated. District committee member Shyam Yadav said the work has been going on since April 27.

The relief work is being overseen by state secretary Jaswinder Singh, state secretariat member Ramvilas Goswami, district secretary Akhilesh Yadav, and other party members and citizens. For migrant workers, a shelter has been started by the MPMSRU Ratlam branch, along with Patrika newspaper, at the union office. There are 10 beds and other arrangements for labourers coming from outside. MP Medical and Sales Representatives’ Union president Ashwani Sharma said medicine has also been arranged for migrant workers at the camp. There are arrangements for breakfast and meals as well. (Badal Saroj)

The CPI(M) Telangana state committee set up a 20-bed isolation centre for Covid-19 patients at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendran at Bagh Lingampally in Hyderabad on May 5. The capacity of the centre was being augmented as the existing beds filled up soon after opening. Food and medical treatment facilities are being given at the isolation center.

Another isolation centre is going to be opened in a hospital in Pragathi Nagar, Medchal district. Efforts are also being made to open isolation centres in Khammam, Suryapet and Nalgonda, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri districts. Helplines have been started by party district centres, mandal centres and mass organisations in almost all districts. Patients are being provided with necessary medical advice. Inaugurating the isolation centre in Hyderabad, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member B V Raghavulu said that both the state and central governments failed in containing Covid-19 cases.

In view of the difficulties faced by people, isolation centres should be opened in local bodies in order to save the people. He suggested that the role of local bodies should be upgraded in preventing disasters. By not doing this, both central and state governments are making a mistake. The BJP government has completely failed to tackle the pandemic. Isolation centres will be opened in every district by CPI(M) to help people. He also called on all political parties to come forward to open such isolation centres. He suggested that the state government should take action in this direction, and make parties and voluntary organisations partners in efforts to tackle the pandemic. CPI(M) state secretary, T Veerabhadram said the pandemic is spreading fast and thousands of people are dying and lakhs of people getting infected. In reality, the numbers of infections and deaths are much higher. The government has failed to contain the pandemic. The civil society should play its role in containing Covid-19. He also praised Kerala’s efforts to combat the virus. Kerala has arranged oxygen plants in every hospital and is supplying oxygen to four states. It has arranged isolation centres up to village/ward level and in these centres, communist volunteers are giving voluntary service to mitigate the suffering of the people. (Kambhampati Sarma)

Reports are pouring in of Red Volunteers being physically attacked in many places in West Bengal even as they try to help people with Covid-related emergencies. The overwhelming majority of Red Volunteers are people below 45. They are not vaccinated and were working at great personal risk of infection even earlier. Now they are facing physical violence. Though SFI-DYFI activists are trying to reach the Covid-affected people in every corner and they are very much available even after May 2nd, regardless of the Left's electoral defeat.

Even after all these, Red Volunteers in West Bengal has touched the hearts of their fierce opponents who once burnt, robbed their houses or hit them with an iron rod. One may compare this with 'the parable of the good samaritan'. But we call this as "the lion heartedness of an ideology." We can see how the government has miserably failed to plan ahead, the health system is already overwhelmed, supply chains for vaccines, oxygen and medicines are proving incapable of meeting the demand.

Elected representatives of the ruling party seem to have mostly vanished. In the current circumstances, the second wave of Covid has already perplexed our fellow countrymen and in a few states, it's already at its peak. Record numbers of cases have become order of the day. The number of infected and death cases are growing day by day. The central government has been shifting the burden on to state governments, including the responsibility of vaccination as well. There is no provision of free transportation for migrant workers despite the experiences last year, which the whole country witnessed. The government does not have any plan and there is no monetary or food relief for the common people as well.

But, at a time when much of the government machinery seems paralysed and most ruling party politicians appear missing on the ground, these SFI-DYFI young people are actually available 24x7. With the steep rise in cases and the healthcare system being overwhelmed, the Red Volunteers have again hit the streets. They will help out to whatever extent they possibly can. In different corners of the country, be it Kerala, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Delhi or Tripura, Red Volunteers can be approached for help with any Covid-related issue, ranging from hospital admission and transport to procuring cooked food and medicines for people under home quarantine. With an aim to help menstruating women during the current lockdown in several states, students and young volunteers have also restarted an initiative of home delivering sanitary napkins. Many things may be entirely out of their control, but they will try to help out wherever they can. There are numerous stories of today’s samaritans. An elderly couple living in Dum Dum doesn’t have enough money to buy vegetables or medicines. They have somehow managed to contact with SFI comrades. We have reached them with medicines and all. An old woman returned from Lucknow to Calicut, having high fever. Our comrades have contacted ambulance and send her to hospital, calming everyone in her family and neighbourhood.

Many lives saved only due to the timely intervention of the Red Volunteers. Pritish Menon, a PhD student at Delhi's South Asian University as well as SFI secretary of Delhi state committee, carries oxygen cylinders on his bike with another comrade riding pillion to help people almost every day, despite his mother being hospitalised with Covid. These unending stories of bravery will inspire generations to come. A few days back, our comrades in JNU had received a call. An entire family had contracted the virus and the elderly father had passed away. They had sent the body to the hospital mortuary but then they had no one to do the cremation. They requested Red Volunteers of SFI to claim the body and carry out the cremation so that they could receive the ashes.

The society and humanity will always be indebted to selfless efforts of Red Volunteers. Even staunch critics of the Left politics are compelled to praise the work of our comrades. The Red Volunteers can be contacted for help with any kind of Covid-related emergency, from oxygen supply and hospital transport to arranging food delivery, medicines and area sanitisation. There is only so much any Good Samaritan can do in the midst of a crisis of this magnitude. Red Volunteers had first started the initiative of reaching out to the needy during the lockdown period last year.

Also, SFI calls upon the interested students and youths to donate blood. Many states like Tripura, Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu have already taken this initiative to the unit level. The SFI has also launched a nationwide movement against the inaction of the central government, especially in a situation wherein the Modi government’s main focus is Central Vista, the dream project of the prime minister for building a new parliament house and changing the cityscape of Delhi that costs the general public a whopping Rs 20,000 crore. The project has been declared as “essential” so that the work could continue despite restrictions on movement due to the pandemic. It comes at a juncture when the health infrastructure of the country has broken down and oxygen is hardly available. In this situation, the central executive committee of SFI organised a nationwide protest call on April 30 demanding free vaccination for all. Another protest call was conducted on May 13 demanding-

(a) Free mass vaccination and free services of oxygen cylinders, pulse oximeter, nebulizer machines, Glucometers, etc.,  for everyone in the country;
(b) Immediate intervention to check black marketing of oxygen, hospital beds and medicines; and (c) Proper protection for frontline workers including those working in oxygen plants and crematoriums.

The Students' Federation of India (SFI) has also approached the Supreme Court to direct the central government to provide universal free vaccination to all citizens and waive the Goods and Service Tax (GST) that is being levied on the import of personal use oxygen concentrators. SFI workers are always there with people, helping them during this horrible time risking their own lives. Ever since the second wave of the pandemic started, our comrades have had sleepless nights. People shall find us in their villages, beside them, in the darkest hours of our civilization: Put aside your differences and help those who are in need of help. (Mayukh Biswas)