K.E.M. Radiology

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Department of Radiology 

  Seth G.S. Medical College and K.E.M. Hospital, Mumbai , India

COVID  Face to face

Call of Duty : Beyond the Hospitals : My experiences during the migrant crisis of 2020

Abhijeet D. Shukla 3rd year Resident 

The COVID pandemic without a doubt  , is a notable event in human history . Events of such proportions occur once in a century. The halting of the entire global economy , entire countries under lockdown , mass curfews , all these events are more reminiscent of war than a pandemic. This is truly a unique moment in human history. 

It was the period of April , 2020 . Lockdown had been announced in India few days ago . Hospitals were filling up with Covid patients , doctors were working round the clock , the economy of our country was taking a deep nose dive . All in all , there were a hundred problems we were facing back then.

There was a fearful atmosphere in the entire  country  A very unique but very huge problem would raise its face during this period – The migrant worker crisis !!

As we know,  there are millions of migrant labourers working in different states of India. Of them , majority work in the states of Delhi , Maharashtra,  Gujrat,  Punjab ,etc. Mumbai being the largest city in India also has a very large number of migrant workers. Because of COVID , these migrant workers faced tremendous problems – business was down,  their employment was gone , they didn’t have a place to stay , there was food shortage everywhere.

In such a scenario , there was a huge crisis as we witnessed millions of workers walking for hundreds of kilometers in the scorching heat of the sun. Seeing their plight , me and my friends from KEMH , all of us doctors , decided to do something.

Initially , we pooled our own resources to buy simple stuff like bananas , water bottles , Glucon-D , etc. Since we were just 4- 5 people,  in the initial few days , we barely managed to buy and distribute food and water to 10-12 migrant workers who were walking along the Mumbai – Nashik highway from Ghatkopar – Thane.

Then we had a nice idea – using the power of social media !! We used Facebook , Instagram , WhatsApp , etc. to relay our message to the public.  It was lockdown so there was severe limitation in movement of people. Many people were watching the COVID crisis and genuinely felt helpless – they wanted to help,  but they just couldn’t.  It was this sense of restlessness that we appealed to . People wanted to contribute and we gave them an opportunity to do so ..

As soon as our message reached people , help came pouring in from all quarters – doctors , engineers , teachers , friends in general , everyone contributed as per their capacity. We had never thought that our simple mission would be blown up to this proportion.

In a period of 1 week , we managed to raise Rs. 45,000 for helping the migrant workers – people from all over India and some from Canada and Australia donated with all their heart.

These funds were utilized for the next 2 weeks for helping the migrant workers- foodstuffs , water bottles , first aid kits , masks , train and bus tickets – our scope had increased a lot because of the increased funds.

This initiative was started by only 4 people-  Dr. Abhijeet  Dr. Armaan , Dr. Aniruddha and Dr. Prabodhini,  but soon many residents from Dept. Of Radiology and other departments of KEM hospital had joined us . Dr. Vinayak Jedhe , our senior in VIR dept. also joined us and lent us his car for the delivery of essential items.

In a span of 20 days , we had managed to raise  Rs. 45,000 and had helped nearly 500-550 migrant workers with everything from food and water to their transportation via trains or buses.

This proved to be a very different experience . While working COVID duties in the hospital , me and my friends were also working outside the hospital helping the migrants . Their problem was too big and at the most our efforts were like a drop in the ocean . Nevertheless , we were inspired by Mr. Ratan Tata and his great humanitarian work for our country and decided to contribute with all our might.

I take pleasure in the fact that if not millions , our efforts helped at least 500 families in their tough times. It also was a good example of how educated people like doctors can go beyond their call of duty to serve our country and humanity.