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Saturday, July 31, 2021

How Vasundhara Raje’s office fielded Covid help requests in 2nd wave

The request for help “was posted everywhere, on Twitter, Facebook,” he says. Among those who reached out to him was the office of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

Written by Hamza Khan | Jaipur |
Updated: June 19, 2021 1:28:25 pm
Vasundhara Raje (File Photo)

Early in May, having unsuccessfully tried for an oxygen bed for his Covid-positive parents elsewhere, Jaipur resident Lalit Pareek, 27, gave up and kept waiting outside Jaipur’s Rajasthan University of Health Sciences (RUHS), which is the largest government-run Covid treatment facility in Rajasthan. Covid was yet to peak in the state.

“First my wife and I tested positive. Later, when we tested negative for Covid, my father’s health started to deteriorate. Following his pulse test (SpO2), the doctor adviced us to admit him to a hospital. For safety, we got HRCT tests of both the parents conducted, which showed damage in their lungs. By the time we took them to the hospital, their SpO2 was 65-70,” says Pareek.

The request for help “was posted everywhere, on Twitter, Facebook,” he says. Among those who reached out to him was the office of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

“His parents were outside RUHS and were sharing one oxygen cylinder and the oxygen level were down to about 70. He said both were going to die. He was requesting for help. So, we got his parents admitted in the hospital,” said an official at the former CM’s office.

“I got calls from several places but her office was in regular touch with me, calling me every few hours,” says Pareek. Eventually, both were admitted and while his mother was discharged ten days later, his father was discharged 13 days later. Both are now at home.

Around the same time, at Jalore’s Raniwara on the Gujarat border, Bhanwar Singh, 33, had found an oxygen bed for his father Jeevan Singh, 65, but he had no luck with Remdesivir, and doctors had told him it was crucial. Through social media, he was able to reach out to Raje’s office, and injections were arranged shortly. Over a call, he can’t stop thanking Raje. “I got Remdesivir injections due to Vasundhara ji, my father is alive because of her,” he says.

In Banswara, Covid-positive Narayan Lal Gayari, 35, a farmer, was prescribed ‘lots of medicines, powder, bottles, injections…’ by doctors. However, he says he barely had any money to pay for them. “I was on bed for 25 days,” he says. In his case, help was sought through Telegram (messaging App), and Raje arranged for money to pay for his medicines.

Like Pareek, Singh and Gayari, thousands of others were helped over the last two months by the former CM, who also started a separate Twitter handle @officeVRaje to address the growing requests for help.

“We started an unverified handle because ma’am’s verified handle ended up missing out on a lot of requests since people were tagging her for other matters too, such as their campaigns for government recruitment, etc.” the official, who did not wish to be identified, told The Indian Express.

“It also helped us reach out to a larger audience and connect with people on ground. Workers on the ground knew that this was one place they could reach out to ma’am,” the official said.

Launched in April, the Twitter handle has about 3,000 Tweets, which roughly reflects the number of people helped through the handle. Outside Twitter, there were many more who also reached out through WhatsApp, SMS, calls, contacts, acquaintances, etc.

“She keeps herself updated (about Covid) by talking to doctors and reading a lot. And she made it clear that we don’t just have to help people, that we not only address their request and close the case but also follow up with them and ensure how they recover at the earliest,” the official said.

Her team says that she “personally” monitored everything and every morning, the patients’ reports go to her. A core team of 3-4 persons took the requests and addressed them. Beyond the core team there is a huge network of BJYM and ABVP workers and leaders, party members, volunteers, etc. in the districts “and she personally speaks to them. They call or text her whenever they want,” the official added.

“And if there was anyone who hadn’t received medicine, or oxygen or a bed by end of the day, she would start making calls. We also sought her help whenever we encountered any difficulty,” a team member said, adding, “She would then call up the district authorities concerned and ensure that help reached the person.”

Amidst all this, there were party workers who themselves tested positive. “They would inform her of their positive status. And one might just say ‘get well soon’, but she sent us those details and said, note this down, it means that in the next 3-5 days, they might need attention. So we have those names, and we called them up every morning,” the official said.

Initially, the team got requests for oxygen and then later for injections. “We had to explain people the process of submitting a request for Remdesivir, while we also requested the local authorities for help,” the official said. Then there was a demand for beds.

“Mid-April to mid-May was the most trying time where there was request for oxygen, oxygen beds, ICU beds. And then plasma too: we had a whole batch of recovered patients but they were petrified of going to facilities to donate plasma,” the official said.

However, considering that they were representing a former CM, the team members had immense responsibility. “People reached out to ma’am and were convinced that their request would be addressed. We were racing against time because we knew it was such a huge responsibility, we didn’t have a choice to say that sir we are sorry,” the official said.

Interestingly, there were also people who didn’t subscribe to her ideology, or were from the Congress party.

Then there are also cases such as that of Mohan Lal, 58. He had tested positive and by mid-May, his son Anuj, 25, took to Twitter seeking help for a ventilator. “There was full support and response from her,” Anuj says, referring to Raje’s office. However, his father passed away.

“There were people who recovered and went back home but later died due to post-Covid complications, including cardiac arrest,” the official says.

For some places such as Jhalawar district, which has her Assembly constituency of Jhalrapatan, the former CM took extra care of the patients. “She routinely kept herself updated about every patient who approached her. We would be surprised that we would take a name and she’d know about them,” the official said.

The former CM says, “Being able to work with people and save lives was a very humbling experience for me. And it was also a privilege to be able to serve and see people go back to their families.”

The requests for help, however, have not stopped yet. And with a third wave expected, they might have to brace themselves again.

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