Wed, 23 Jun 2021

By Aveek BanerjeeKangra (Himachal Pradesh) [India], May 5 (ANI): As the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 rages across India, help often fails to reach some far flung areas. A former MLA's son has now taken it upon himself to help the public, especially in the landlocked region of Himachal Pradesh, combat the virus through his new philanthropic initiative.

Through his 'Ranjeet Bakshi COVID-Care Helpline' in the Noorpur area of Himachal Pradesh's Kangra district, Akil Ranjeet Bakshi is helping to provide medicines, personalised guidance and useful information to COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, in the memory of his father Ranjeet Bakshi, who passed away last year.

"My father was himself interested in trying to rejuvenate the health and education sector in this area. So, I started this helpline after him because the COVID-19 cases in Himachal Pradesh have witnessed a steep hike in the month of April. At that time, I realized that there are a lot of people who are in home isolation, cannot speak to their doctors all the time or go to public health centres, dispensaries and hospitals," Akil told ANI.

The 33-year-old pooled in a group of doctors to provide free online consultation to patients fighting the Coronavirus with mild symptoms but nevertheless need medical assistance.

"We have about 9-10 doctors in our panel from different parts of India who have very kindly come forward to help us in this initiative," he said, adding, "That is why I wanted to set up a helpline which basically caters to people who have mild symptoms, are in home isolation or anyone who thinks he or she might have COVID-19 and want to know more about it."The aim is not only to provide people with consultations but also to make sure that at the grassroot level, including ASHA workers and people who are working every day, we could also provide them with some protective equipment, he further said.

Elaborating on the second COVID wave, Akil mentioned that more people in the age group of 25-60 are testing positive with serious symptoms this year, as compared to the first wave where 90 per cent of the patients were senior citizens. He also said that the infection gets more severe over time in patients.

Speaking on increasing hospitalisations, he said: "In terms of COVID-19, there are a lot of people who panic because it has claimed so many lives. While it is true that only some of the people need hospitalisation, you cannot put the onus on the people and say that you should not panic. This is only one of the reasons why I started this helpline, so that people who have mild symptoms are able to be treated at home and they don't have to rush to hospitals."Himachal Pradesh has registered 1,10,945 cases and 1,647 deaths since the pandemic began in March last year, as per the State Health Department on Tuesday. The active cases in the state are 23,572.

The picturesque Kangra has 20,447 patients, where over 430 people have succumbed to the virus over the last one year.

Akil explains that the district shares open borders with Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir making it susceptible to coronavirus. The state has border protocols, yet seeing the stats, these seem not enough.

He mentioned that there are two or three civil hospitals in the area and that there has been a lack of adequate preparation to deal with the rise in cases.

"The Deputy Commissioner of Kangra issued an order to control the use of oxygen cylinders and they are ramping up their efforts regarding availability of hospital beds as soon as possible. There is a huge gap in terms of infrastructure and everything that is required to battle COVID-19. I don't think the political parties, either one of them in this area, are trying to do much as they should be doing. Despite restrictions, the gyms, malls and restaurants are still open, so there is very imbalanced situation here. I think there should be a helpline in all of these districts and they should be linked to websites so that the assistance can be tracked on a real time basis," he further told ANI.

Akil also thinks that a complete statewide lockdown might not be the best measure to control the pandemic, but a well-thought-out strategy and reasonable restrictions must be implemented without putting the economy and financial interests in jeopardy.

Speaking on the efforts of the Himachal Pradesh government in curbing the surging cases, he opined that the administration is doing its best to control the situation but there is a lack of organisation on the ground.

"There are a lot of people who come from Pathankot in Punjab who do their businesses here and go back home every day. How do you manage people who don't go home daily. This lack of vigil in what they need to do is glaring," he remarked, calling on the administration to cap the prices of COVID-related products.

Akil further asserted that people should not become complacent again after they undergo COVID-19 vaccination and that people should learn to live with the virus. "We cannot be forever shut down in our houses and shops," he added.

With regards to mental stress, he suggested that people should engage in activities to keep themselves distracted. He also called on people to arrange COVID-related relief materials for the vulnerable patients.

Akil's father, Ranjeet Bakshi, was a Congress MLA from the Noorpur area from 1997-2003. He passed away in December 2020 after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age of 83.

Meanwhile, India is currently in the grip of the devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic and has been registering over three lakh new infections and more than 3,000 deaths on a daily basis for the past few days. (ANI)

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