It starts with ME….

March 30, 2020

By – Arnaz Dalal
(Equitable Healthcare Access Consortium)

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” with these stirring words John F Kennedy challenged every American to contribute in some way for the public good. And that is exactly what India, our beloved country needs from us…its citizens, today.

Our country is in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, a crisis like no other ever experienced and all our national resources are diverted towards fighting this deadly virus. Our public health systems are not geared for this enormous pressure and one feels that the situation is spinning out of control, especially with the latest headlines of lakhs of migrant workers stuck at state borders, which threatens the whole notion of the lockdown in the first place. Political opportunists do not lose such opportunities to make mince meat of the government, rather than contributing in constructive ways on how to address this colossal human tragedy.

In these gloomy times, the flicker of hope, which reaches out and warms the heart are the gestures of philanthropy made by organizations and people to fight COVID-19. The outpouring of solidarity and support has been simply phenomenal!

Examples abound: the Rs. 1,500 crore donated by the Tata Group for providing protective equipment to health workers & respiratory systems for treating increasing cases, testing kits to ramp up testing in the country; the Mahindra Group, which is working on simplifying the design for a frugal ventilator; the Vedanta group, which has pledged $13 million for benefiting daily wage workers, employees and contract workers; the Reliance Foundation, which has set up India’s first dedicated coronavirus centre with 100 beds in Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai, or Akshay Kumar the Bollywood actor who in his individual capacity has announced a contribution of Rs. 25 crores to the PM CARES fund. These are a few examples of stepping up to the plate, at a country level that we are aware of. Countless more modest contributions are pouring in every minute from across the country including a poor person who sent Rs. 501/- to the PM CARE fund, that was gratefully acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself, when he went on to say that no contribution is too small.

Closer to home, in every nook and corner of the country, there are several NGO’s, organizations, and people who are helping provide rations and food to the poor, providing medical aid, reaching out to the old and aged population in the community through volunteers on a daily basis. There are anganwadis/phulwaris that have shut shop due to the lockdown; yet they have ensured that daily food gets cooked and delivered to the kids at their homes, because this is the only meal many of them eat in a day due to their poverty-stricken circumstances. There are entire help lines that are working 24/7 from homes, to provide support to people on various issues. There are individuals who have handed over 100 bed hospitals to the Govt to run as quarantine centres at no cost. And there are still others who are reaching out to people to just have a chat and listen to their anxieties and calm them in these trying times.

Let us not forget our front-line staff like Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Health workers and Police as well as all the other essential service providers who are going “above and beyond” their call of duty on a daily basis and have upped the ante to battle this virus.

While all of us at our individual level may or may not have the wherewithal or capability to make large contributions that grab national headlines, the least we can do is reduce the burden on a creaking and overwhelmed system. So, let us pledge today, that “WE, THE CITIZENS OF INDIA WILL STAY LOCKED DOWN FOR THESE 21 DAYS.”

Our country needs us to and it starts with ME….

The author is the CEO of Equitable Healthcare Access Consortium, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to enhance equitable access to healthcare, education and livelihood to the people of India. The opinions expressed are her personal views.

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