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CSR in Covid-19 – Connecting souls in the midst of a struggle between life and death

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After several days of high fever, when there was no improvement in my health, it was time to go to the hospital, which set in motion a life-changing reality check. It was a huge challenge to get a bed in a small, run-down nursing home with insufficient medical facilities, not knowing whether there would be enough oxygen available, or whether the nursing home would have trained doctors and nurses to provide the necessary treatment.  
It was difficult getting to the hospital, and then being asked by the staff to immediately arrange Remdesivir injections at midnight. Imagine the anguish of the patient, and the family when they are asked by the hospital authorities at midnight to anyhow arrange for injections which is critical for patient’s survival from the black market because it’s not easily available to a common man through the proper channel. All of this at a time when you knew that once admitted to the Covid ward, you wouldn’t be able to share your pain or sorrow with someone close to you, and there would be no one to comfort you by holding your hand, simply because nobody other than the Covid ward staff would be allowed in the premises. Despite these challenges, I was admitted to a nursing home, unsure of how good, poor, or strange my days would be.      
When I was younger, my grandmothers used to tell me stories about angels, and how if we think about God in distress, he sends these angels to comfort us. I used to believe that fairy tales were made up, but I saw those angels in the hospital this time. Completely wrapped in PPE kits from head-to-toe, we referred to these angels as doctors, nurses, sisters, ward boys, uncles and aunts.  
These are the angels who are tasked with reviving our stagnant breaths, falling pulse, and dying heartbeat, who regardless of their own lives and well-being, work day and night to donate their lives to us, and in the guise of selfless service, we would not even recognize them if they happen to run into us. This is in true sense Citizen Social Responsibility (CSR).
I’ll remember you angels, sweating under the PPE Kit, helping the patients tirelessly, boldly, and fearlessly, giving millions of people a chance at life. Thank you, physicians, nurses, ward boys, and pathology technicians, the ambulance drivers, the paramedic crews, the woman at the desk doing the admin , the man coming in cleaning up after a dead body, the porter taking it down to the morgue, for allowing our country to breathe. Behind their masks, these angels’ renunciation and benevolence may go untold and unheard of, but that is why they are being called “angels”.  
The second wave of Covid-19 slowly annihilated life once more as India was getting back on track. Despite repeated warnings about the possibility of another deadly wave, neither the government nor we took any concrete steps to fix the disaster. Nor did our government have any potential plans to deal with the upcoming crisis, and the outcome is what we all see today. The horrific pictures from other nations used to haunt us a short time ago, people pleading for their lives and the corpses being buried in low-lying grounds. The same scene has now become a symbol of India to the rest of the world.  
We, too, want to live; we also have our parents, children, brothers, sisters, and friends, all of whom we adore and who rely heavily on us. We have no need or desire for something from you. We are happy in our own little world. Our only desire is seeing our loved ones being alive. If you want to rob and plunder the country for as much money as you want, go ahead and do it, but don’t take away from us our right to live.  
They are as valuable as yours. We’ve almost never spoken. We all have been sitting silently, watching all the brutal acts but if we still remain silent despite seeing the corpses of our own people, then we are so damn sorry for our existence. Where will you take all this money, and what will you gain by accumulating wealth that has been found through the death of others, and which you will almost certainly never be able to use in your life?  
You’ve always been preoccupied with yourself. Don’t let this opportunity to work for humanity pass you by. Live once for all, think about everyone. This might be your chance to amend some of the wrongs that you have committed in life.  
Consider what’s going on for a moment: My family and I are pleading for our lives today; tomorrow, it may be your turn. Do you believe that Corona is just wreaking havoc on the lives of the poor and vulnerable? Do you believe Corona only recognizes the weaker sections of society and then destroys them? For once just sit quietly and think, you will discover the answers on your own.  
It’s for a reason that the Almighty has granted you the ability to help and support others. Wake up, the time has come to complete your duties. If you do not wake up now, you will surely regret it, may be regret is all you will be left with and it will only be a matter of time before you realise this.  
It’s okay if we postpone the election plans and concentrate on saving people’s lives. It’s okay to lose one State under your control if winning elections costs thousands of lives. It’s okay if we don’t conduct politics on a heap of bodies. It’s okay if we don’t export medicines to make a name for ourselves; instead, concentrate on providing vital medicines to our countrymen so they can protect themselves and their families.  
We have plenty of time to politicize the mandir-masjid issue; its okay if we use it to our benefit later. For now, let us concentrate on laying the groundwork for hospitals. In this time of deep crisis, it’s okay if we postpone building the Prime Minister House and spending crores, let us not make fun of the poor and innocent people who are falling short of land for burial today.  
Perhaps there would be more rage and anger if you look at the Coronavirus pandemic time in its entirety. The indignation of the government’s short-sightedness, the resentment of the public, the displeasure of capitalists who fill their pockets by exploiting people’s compulsion, and the leaders who fill their stomachs with government aid and assistance.  
The squabble and power struggle between the Central and state governments, as well as dirty politics, continue miserably even during the pandemic. People are wandering in search of life-saving drugs, although the stock of drugs remained in the hands of politicians and influencers. Many died from lack of oxygen, people continue to suffer on the streets due to non-availability of beds in hospitals while on the other hand, bids were placed in thousands to gain access to these hospital beds.  
In 2021, the second wave of Covid-19 is wreaking havoc. Unaccounted deaths have melted crematorium walls. Those living in palaces were seen outside hospitals and clinics, waiting for their turn in a queue of ambulances. Those who were sick yearned for a touch from their loved ones, and their families had no choice but to abandon them to the mercy of hospital staff. In many instances, infected people were abandoned on the streets by their loved ones in order to save the lives of other family members. All equations have deteriorated: rich-poor, family-stranger.  
At the same time, another positive aspect of the country has emerged: the aspect of shared brotherhood, compassion, and humanity, which is perhaps every Indian’s first identity. Citizen social responsibility(CSR) is being experienced at its best ever. India has bled many times in the last 14–15 months, sometimes due to the lockdown sighs of the starving poor walking hundreds of kilometres during the lockdown, mothers delivering hiding in the field, on the way to their home destinations, and sometimes shrieking innocent soul’s just minutes away from reaching home.    
The government also made efforts to provide relief to the people, particularly in the early days of the Corona era. But before the mole reached the dying people, all of this relief work, the whole scheme, had reached the black market and hoarders. In such difficult times, the common man became the common man’s supporter. As the government system became weaker and weaker, ordinary people like us came out of their homes and distributed a large number of essential goods and grains on a large scale.  
Migrant workers are the most vulnerable victims of government negligence since they have no alternative but to return home. Compelling them to walk thousands of miles while starving and thirsty is no less than a criminal act. Fortunately, the general public, who had been oblivious to their plight for some time, provided them with food, water, and shelter along the way. This act of kindness and citizen social responsibility (CSR) will never be forgotten.  
Every citizen is proving to be a well-wisher for their counterparts and willing to help and assist each other in searching for drugs, oxygen, and hospital beds. Each one, regardless of their status, religion, cast or creed, is willing to assist and help in any way possible. Thousands of hands offer to help on social media in response to a single appeal. Those who have been affected by the pandemic do not want to see anybody else fall victim to it. There have also been several instances where Muslims have buried unclaimed Hindu bodies while Hindus have performed the last rituals for Muslims.  
In these times of doubt, desperation and tragedy, when the poison has dissolved in the air, when people are losing their lives on ventilators, struggling for life on artificial oxygen, with no one to assist them in their agony, no one to place a hand on their head to console them, and corpses outside the crematorium waiting for their turn, a single gesture of help is worth a thousand.  
During this trying moment, the business world stepped up to lend a hand in a major way through their CSR activities and budgets. Oxygen concentrators, ICU beds and ventilators are being made available from companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Tata Group, ITC, Reliance Industries, Jindal Steel and Power Limited, Bajaj Group, Flipkart, Amazon, and P&G.  
Reliance Industries began producing medical oxygen at its Jamnagar plant which is being distributed free of charge to the states most affected by the epidemic. Till date, JSPL has supplied over 1,000 tonne of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) to various health centres in nine states of India. ITC assisted in the establishment of a super specialty hospital in Kolkata. The Bajaj Group has committed an additional Rs. 200 crore to Covid relief. ICICI Lombard is running a vaccination drive in Mumbai under which it will cover 6,00,00 vaccine doses. Almost every industrial house in the country stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its countrymen at the time of this disaster, and is doing the work of giving life to the pulse of the country.
Is this the right of the government, in these historically difficult times, when the general public is becoming a victim of the epidemic and every countryman is moving the hand of help for the sake of humanity, to forcefully gift us with Palace like parliament and the Prime minister’s home, and that too at the expense of hard-earned taxpayers’ money that we pay for our betterment and security?  
It’s time to choose between Parliament House and Hospitals, Ventilators/sufficient oxygen or a new home for our Prime Minister? Temple/Mosque or our lives? Elections or life-saving drugs?   

The author, Amit Upadhyay, is Editor-in-Chief of The CSR Journal 

To read more articles by the author, click here

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