Nagpur (Maharashtra), May 27 (IANS) Though freely available in nature, oxygen is now apparently a scarce commodity with states and the Central government gasping and puffing to get liquid medical oxygen (LMO) stocks for treating serious Covid-19 patients in the second wave of the pandemic.
In this crisis, a Central Railway (CR) Commercial Department OS in Nagpur Khushroo Poacha has come up with a unique solution - an "Oxygen Bank" - especially targeting the tribals in forests and urban poor or slumdwellers in the Vidarbha towns.
"I witnessed the critical shortage of oxygen, particularly in small hospitals in moffussil areas with patients just dying anywhere. I tried to help out those who cannot afford oxygen concentrators or cylinders, and there are even few who can afford it but there's no oxygen available in the remote areas," Poacha told IANS.
Accordingly, the compassionate railwayman issued a global SOS for oxygen through his social media and charitable organisations last month.
The first to respond were a 17-year-old boy and 3 engineering students who immediately donated 1 oxygen concentrator each, but the pleasant surprise came from ordinary Zoroastrians (Parsis) in Abu Dhabi who crowd-funded 40 top-class Turkish oxygen concentrators and airlifted them to the anxious Poacha.
"This was like a divine gift… I gave 6 oxygen concentrators to Dr Ashish Satav's Mahaan Hospital for exclusive use of the tribals of the remote Melghat area of Amravati. Another 6 are given for the jungle folk of Yavatmal through farmer leader Kishore Tiwari, and the rest are distributed as an 'oxygen loan' to poorest people or slumdwellers in Nagpur and other cities," Poacha smiled with pride.
The oxygen concentrators, each costing around Rs 75,000, are easy-to-use, tough workhorses and have functioned without glitches and are helping save many people breathe easily, absolutely free of cost.
"Many government and private hospitals insist after cure, the patient must remain on oxygen for at least a month. But, how can the poor patients or tribals afford this and they are kept in hospitals, depriving other needy patients of treatment," Poacha explained.
The Oxygen Bank, billed as first of its kind in the country, and instead of merely giving away, the oxygen concentrators are rotated among various tribals and poor patients as and when required, for maximum reach at minimum costs.
"With the growing demand and appeals from tribal belts in Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Gondia and Wardha, we now seek another 60 oxygen concentrators of similar quality for the recovered poor tribals or slumdwellers," Poacha said.
A tribal patient from Nagpur, Tulsiram Bhaisare was virtually kept 'hostage' in a government hospital after he tested negative and could not be discharged as he could ill-afford an oxygen concentrator at his small dwelling.
"I appealed through the NGO Seva Kitchen and the very same day we got one delivered… My dad was discharged, he is now using it at home and recovering well," said his grateful daughter Priyanka Bhaisare.
At a function in Yavatmal, Tiwari distributed 6 oxygen concentrators to a small 10-bed hospital in a tribal village and all were deployed for use immediately for the relieved patients.
"This is indeed a unique concept and ensures that the oxygen concentrators can be put to use for multiple patients and avoid wastage of resources in the remote areas of Vidarbha," Tiwari remarked.
At the height of the first lockdown, through his 'Seva Kitchen' initiative, Poacha and his team of 1000 volunteers collected and donated food or aid worth nearly Rs 50 lakh via online appeals only, first reported by IANS (April 6, 2020.).
Impressed by the feat, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called up Poacha the next morning, while Railway Minister Piyush Goyal proudly tweeted his "railway family" member's eye-catching achievements the following day.
"Till date we have given over two million foodkits in Nagpur, Wardha, Yavatmal, slumdwellers in Mumbai and even Amreli in Gujarat, with support from NGOs like Sant Nirankari Seval Dal, Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission, besides many silent or anonymous philanthropists preferring to remain in the shadows," acknowledged the grateful Poacha.
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