Social media has recently emerged as a platform for relief work to combat the second wave in India. People were found sharing leads for almost everything on Twitter, or on their stories on Whatsapp and Instagram. Leads for medicated oxygen cylinders, vacant beds, medicines such as Remdesivir, plasma of a recovered person, and rare groups of blood were shared among people. When the government failed to take the necessary steps and people started losing their lives en masse, netizens took it upon themselves to amplify the problem and scarcity the people of India were facing.
The trend started by sharing leads for medicated oxygen, people started putting up stories of places with their numbers where one can get the oxygen if they wished to. Patients in India suffered a huge deal due to the shortage of oxygen in medical facilities. People were dying every day in great numbers due to the unavailability of oxygen. Hospitals denied entry to patients due to the shortage of oxygen and several people died pleading for help. Journalist Vinay Srivastava from Lucknow kept pleading on Twitter that the hospitals are not letting him in and no doctor or a lab was picking up the phone while his oxygen level kept dropping below normal. In the end, he died a tragic death in his home as no one could supply him with the required oxygen. This incident was one of the reasons which triggered the relief work to happen on an individual level through the internet.
Special Whatsapp groups were made solely for the purpose of sharing verified leads and information of medical equipment so that people can save their lives individually while the governments and medical facilities failed to provide any assistance. Stories were shared on Instagram asking mentioned people about the availability of certain equipment or blood or plasma or medicines and people reverted if they could find verifiable leads.
Things were running smoothly until there started circulating a message which indicated that the government is arresting people who are sharing leads on Whatsapp. This was, however, a hoax as several social media influencers asked people on the internet to stay strong and to keep doing whatever they were in order to help the people. But the government has been censoring several URLs on the internet and the reach of several Instagram stories decreased whenever someone criticized the government or amplified the shortage of oxygen or any covid related stuff. The Central Government issued directions under Section 69(a) of the IT Act to censor posts. Section 69(a) is a legal provision that gives the government power to issue directions to block public access to any information available through a computer resource. Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are made to take down people’s posts without informing them of the reason. This happened during the Farmer’s Protest too when several Twitter handles such as the Caravan and the Kisan Ekta Morcha were taken down.
Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and seize the property of anyone who spreads rumors or propaganda on social media and tries to ‘spoil the atmosphere’. He also asserted that there is no shortage of oxygen in government or private medical facilities and said that the actual problem is black marketing and hoarding.
Seizing the Property jibe of the saffron clad CM of UP, one of the worst hit states in India due to the second wave, is not new.
It seems like the people on the internet have had enough and they do not really want to stop their activity of amplifying the poor medical condition in India. They are doing their usual bit despite the censorship and the tantrums of prominent government officials. Stories are being shared, Whatsapp groups are being sustained and people are being helped on a significant level.
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