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As Patna hospitals battle second wave, a social activist, politician emerge as ‘oxygen men’

While Rai has been offering the service from his home, Yadav has been moving around in the state capital either alone or with supporters. Both first verify a patient’s medical needs and ask for an assurance that the empty cylinders will be returned.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
April 25, 2021 2:37:45 am
Patna coronavirus cases, COVID-19 cases in Patna, Oxygen deficiency in India, Covid-19 India Second Wave, Bihar covid-19 cases, Bihar news, indian expressJan Adhikar Party chief Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav

Amid a shortage of oxygen at several government and private hospitals, two Patna residents — social activist Gaurav Rai and Jan Adhikar Party chief Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav — are busy offering free oxygen cylinders to those who need them at medical facilities or homes.

Rai, also an entrepreneur, has emerged as Bihar’s self-proclaimed “oxygen man”; he distributed cylinders across the state during the first phase of the pandemic and has provided 380 cylinders so far during the second surge — all this when he is battling with health issues related to his vocal chord.

While politicians from leading parties in the state have been busy attacking each other over the pandemic, former Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav has been seen at various hospitals, checking up on patients, getting them admission, or seeking to know the status of oxygen supplies. He has taken 80 cylinders on rent.

While Rai has been offering the service from his home, Yadav has been moving around in the state capital either alone or with supporters. Both first verify a patient’s medical needs and ask for an assurance that the empty cylinders will be returned.

“I have so far distributed 335 vials of Remdesivir to as many patients and about 100 oxygen cylinders… I visit any hospital if I get a call about mismanagement. Oxygen shortage at hospitals reflects very poorly on the system,” Yadav said.

Rai, who tested positive during the first wave, came up with the idea of setting up an “oxygen bank” with help of his wife Aruna Bhardwaj with just three oxygen cylinders. “I had seen the pathetic status of oxygen supply at a leading government hospital. I thought of helping Covid patients in home isolation needing oxygen support.”

A senior executive at a private firm making security number plates for two- and four-wheelers, Rai gets the cylinders refilled from Patna-based Kumar Enterprises for a modest sum of Rs 100 each. He has helped out the needy not just in Patna but in several other districts — with assistance from a portion of his and his wife’s income.

P K Singh, a resident of Patna, said, “It was only because of Gaurav’s support that I could save my father.”

Manisha Kumari, whose relative is admitted to a Patna hospital, said, “I got Remdesivir from Yadav. The medicine is available in black market at a very high price but Yadav gave it to me for free.”

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