As Covid 2.0 sweeps Goa, fearless Goans all over the State are doing their best to help those infected and their families, writes SYBIL RODRIGUES.

Even the darkest cloud has a silver lining. While Goa and the rest of the country battles the deadly second wave of Covid, myriad acts of kindness, be it home cooked meals for the ill, arranging oxygen cylinders or creating a portal on social media to reach out to the people, are shining through Goa’s most severe health emergency.

From people offering to run errands, and home kitchens delivering meals to organisations and individuals stepping in to supply oxygen cylinders, oximeters and the like, the goodness comes as a ray of sunshine through the dark clouds of tragedy.

The leadership and administration skills that initiatives of such a scale requires, is mammoth, but each and everyone of these groups and organizations have risen to the occasion.

It gives people a sense of purpose, feeling that even though in these difficult times, there’s something one can do about it, that one has some sense of purpose, some feeling of control, even when everything else feels out of control.

All these good Samaritans, whether working in their individual capacities or through their groups, clubs and organisations, are Goa’s Covid heroes.



From Canada With Love

Vijay Thomas

The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), along with 80-odd community bodies, launched the ‘Oxygen for India’ marathon fundraiser to collect $2 million to send oxygen equipment to India, even as Ontario announced to send 2,000 more ventilators to the country.

Almost $500,000 was raised during the very first session of the marathon fundraiser. The fund-raiser will be held for three hours every Sunday for four weeks from 17th May. The biggest contribution of $50,000 came from Canada’s native or indigenous Metis people. “We have similarities with Indians even though we are from different parts of the world. India will be there for us when we need, and we should be there for them now. We will donate $50,000 to the ICCC and do more if needed,” announced David Chartrand, President of the Manitoba Metis Federation.

ICCC President Vijay Thomas, who hails from Porvorim Goa and is also the founder-CEO of Tangentia Technologies, said that their initiative aims at garnering donations not only from the 1.6 million Indo-Canadian community, but also businesses and cities across Canada.

“The money will be used to send oxygen concentrators and generators and we will find new pathways to send oxygen to India. We want to ensure that oxygen reaches tier 2 and 3 cities and towns before they get severely hit by the virus,” Thomas said. Top political leaders, including the Ontario Premier Doug Ford, mayors, business owners and medical professionals took part in the marathon fundraiser.

Ford announced that 2,000 additional ventilators are being sent to India, in addition to 3,000 already delivered.

“The whole planeload of Air Canada is filled from front to back and arriving (in India) with all sorts of supplies. The people of India have been there for us and we will be there for them,” the Ontario Premier said, referring to India’s delivery of one million vaccine doses to Canada earlier this year.

Markham city’s Frank Scarpitti, who has been to India many times and is very well respected in the Indo-Canadian community, announced a donation of $10,000 to the initiative by the ICCC. The mayors of Brampton and Mississauga, the outlying cities which are home to the biggest concentration of the Indo-Canadian community in Canada, urged their residents to donate liberally to the initiative.



The Good Samaritans

All over the world the Sikh community is known for its generosity and sense of service to the people, especially the less fortunate.

The Goa Sikh Youth Group was set up in 2016 and had a few members. Over the years, they have had langars (community kitchens) at different medical camps held all over Goa. Sandeep Singh, one of the members says, “We have a lot of people in our group and wanted to do something good as our religion teaches us.”

In 2020, during the lockdown, they provided meals for the underprivileged and the daily wage labourers, in Goa, providing them with fresh, home cooked meals and groceries.

Sandeep adds, “This year, we got a lot of calls from people, that GMC wasn’t providing proper meals to patients and their relatives. We thought of providing healthy food to the patients, which we cook in pure ghee and every day we cater to around 1200 – 1500 people at the hospital. We also give fruits, water bottles, juice, and biscuits to the people.”

This year too, they are providing groceries and essential to the less fortunate along with food. The cyclone did not deter these brave souls who continued serving food outside GMC in the pounding rain. Besides this, they also receive calls for support especially for oxygen cylinders, and the group tries to utilize their network and meet the needs of the people.

The Gurudwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha in Betim also provides free meals to the needy on a daily basis. Sandeep states that he and his group is very grateful to people for their contributions. “Right up from groceries to  monetary contributions, a lot of people have helped us. A couple of villagers have also donated generously to our cause. Initially we always start with our funds but as word gets around, people willingly come to us and contribute. Vedanta, Big Daddy Casino and Gulati from Pride Group are some of the people who have helped us in a big way”



One Woman Army

Shruti Chaturvedi, originally from Ahmedabad, is a Goa-based entrepreneur and runs a media and communications company called Chaaipani.

Shruti was part of different volunteer networks in other parts of the country. “When Goa was hit with the second wave, I saw a lot of distress even among my own friends and neighbours. So I began collating resources, more volunteers joined in, and we started helping around with everything people would need during Covid-19 emergency. Right up from home cooked food, to help with finding hospital beds, emergency oxygen support, sanitisation of their home. We even got on board 500 rooms inventory of hotels within a day that could be converted to isolation wards.”

The response to Shruti’s initiative to help people out has been very gratifying. Families who have lost their loved ones have even joined as volunteers, being grateful to her for helping them out during their tough times.

Shruti and her team have raised about 22 lakhs from locals as well as Goans settled abroad which enabled her to purchase equipments and help the disadvantaged with their medical expenses. The biggest help has been the High Court which reviewed some of her suggestions in their petition to control the Covid situation in Goa and address the issues at GMC.

Apart from the locals, many MLAs, panch members and the mayors extended their support. Shruti added that the biggest support has come from the entrepreneurial community in Goa. Even journalists who’ve uncovered the truth fearlessly have been a big support to the cause.

Shruti says that the biggest bottleneck in Goa is efficiency in Government processes. “During the last one month, while one part of our team have been working on the ground, another set of the team was focused on making our processes as efficient as possible.”

Further, Shruti adds, “In the future, I would like to take this entrepreneurial and result-oriented approach to solve civic issues of Goa. People shouldn’t suffer because of the inefficiency of bureaucratic processes.

Government employees should be held accountable and must be made to deliver results. I am working on ways to make SOPs that are sustainable in the long run for the entire State of Goa.”  Lastly, she feels that it has been a very satisfying experience for all of them, given that they could do something for Goa.

Lastly, she feels that it has been a very satisfying experience for all of them, given that they could do something for Goa



Seeking Judicial Intervention

The South Goa Advocates Association, which was the first whistle blower on the oxygen crisis in GMC, has vowed to continue monitoring the situation as the third wave may hit the State. The President of the Association, Adv. Antonio Clovis da Costa has said that their fight for justice for the 75 people who passed away during the ‘dark hours’ will continue through different forums. “We had been reading in the papers that there were deaths occurring during a particular time. Many lawyers in our Association were falling sick along with their family members and they were coming to us for help. We read a letter issued by the Goa Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) which brought to light the lack of oxygen. We realised then, that there was something very wrong in the system. That was the time we decided to move the High Court and file a petition.”

“Had the government insisted on a negative certificate from travellers, many more lives would have been saved” Adv. Antonio Clovis da Costa President, SGAA

Adv. Antonio states that he is pretty happy about the way the High Court has handled the matter. The High Court has directed the Government to insist on a RTPCR for all those entering Goa. This was the first positive outcome of the petition filed before the High Court. “We knew Maharashtra and Karnataka had a lot of cases and went on a lockdown much before Goa did. Had the government insisted on a negative certificate, many more lives would have been saved.”

With respect to the oxygen supply, Adv. Antonio states that the problem of oxygen has been solved to a big extent with the installation of the 20,000 litre oxygen tank. But he also says that death has been caused due to lack of oxygen and the Association will not rest till justice is given to those who lost their lives and their families.

Adv Antonio and the Association, plan to ask for an audit on all the deaths that have taken place since the month of April till the 15th May. They will also be pressing for an ex-gratia compensation for the people who have died due to the mismanagement of oxygen. “We will be filing another petition or we will be move the necessary application in the same PIL.”

The High Court is now monitoring the functioning of the GMC which has led to an improvement as far as the situation is concerned.

Adv Antonio concludes saying, “We have to be ready for the third wave. The South Goa Advocates Association will act as a watchguard. We will see that the government takes precautionary steps and is ready for the third wave”



Service Above Self

Innovative beds made from cardboard by Velvin Paper Products provided respite to hospitals

Rotary Club of Panaji Riviera has been supporting the people of Goa for over 16 years with their dedication to service. Last year when the pandemic hit Goa, resulting in a lockdown, the Club, under the leadership of Yogish Kulkarni, was the first to step up and help those in need by mobilizing and raising funds, distribution of food and essentials, and PPE kits to the doctors of Directorate of Health Services. Through a Global Grant project the Club donated critical Covid-19 detection equipment such as PCR analyser and RNA extractors. Besides this one pediatric ventilator, two orbital laryngoscopes and two respiratory humidifiers were given to the Directorate of Health.

This year, during the second wave of Covid-19, the Club has once again risen up to the occasion with Club President, Ryan Costa at the helm of affairs.

Ryan speaks about their contribution to the cause. “We have donated two kinds of beds to GMC. One is a temporary bed which is like a stop gap arrangement, wherein a patient can be kept on this bed until a permanent bed is available. This is made from cardboard and is entirely recyclable at the end of its lifespan. 50 of these beds have been given along with mattresses.” These beds have been developed by Vartan Mathias, one of the members of the club who is the owner of Velwin Paper Products. This was developed by Vartan’s company to take care of the urgent requirement of beds at various hospitals. The beds were sponsored by Velwin Paper Products while the mattresses were sponsored by Alcon Foundation. Another 25 such temporary beds were given at Quepem for setting up Covid Isolation centers.

Besides this, the Club has also donated 60 semi-fowler beds to GMC. Ryan says, “These were given a few weeks back and most of them are already put in use. These beds were sponsored by Bhagwati Trust which is represented by Rotarian Neeta Rajani and by Himgiri Castings Private Ltd. Another 25 semi-fowler beds were given directly by The Rotary Club of Panaji Riviera and which are all sponsored through member contributions.”

Ryan mentions that they have also given one High Flow Nasal Oxygenator (HFNO machine), around 40 oxygen flow meters and four trolley stretchers to the GMC. 120 face shields besides 200 plastic gowns, 50 scrub suits, N95 masks and latex gloves were given to the North Goa District Hospital



A Different Ball Game

The Football Dugout is the biggest football community in Goa with fans from different walks of life supporting various teams across continents. They have a social media discussion platform on Facebook which is their primary form of interaction.
Conrad Barreto, one of the founders explains how he came up with the idea of reaching out to the people during this time. “We saw what happened during the last lockdown, wherein the labourers and daily wagers started heading home. This time around we thought if we provide them with lunch and dinner they wouldn’t head home, given that they would lose their jobs. There are so many homeless people who depend on a day-to day job. Keeping all these things in mind, we decided to help them with their daily meals during lockdown.”
They came up with the idea of a fundraiser and the response has been overwhelming. People from Goa, India and all over the world have all supported them and many have donated raw material in kind, as well. Many NGOs have got in touch with them to help with providing oxygen and other things that people may have needed during lockdown and because of the cyclone.
This football community has not only been serving the homeless and underprivileged but even the front-line workers at the South Goa District Hospital and the police force that help in regulating the traffic. They serve nearly 200 meals (lunch and dinner) to the underprivileged people around Margao Municipal Garden and Railway Station.
The lists of people who have helped and contributed include current footballers, past football legends, FC Goa, football fans from Goa, India and all over the world. Even media personnel have been kind to write some stories about the work carried out by this community, thus creating awareness that there are people in Goa that need help during these unprecedented times. The Supporter Clubs involved in this initiative are the Gaur Army; MUSC GOA, Goan Red Devil’s MUSC, Arsenal Goa Supporters Club, Goa Spurs, Real Madrid Goa, FC Barcelona Supporters Goa, Liverpool FC Goa and Everton India.
Apart from all this, an NGO, Sauramandala Foundation got in touch with them and sent two 450 Litre Dura Cylinder that can provide seamless oxygen to the hospitals. They have also put two 5-7L oxygen concentrators in community circulation, too. They have also donated surgical masks to the underprivileged, N95s to the policemen, xximeters for covid patients and also provided the Goa Sikh Youth with raw materials for their community kitchen. Conrad concludes by saying, “It’s a priceless feeling helping people”


For Humanity’s Sake

Adv Rajeshwari Naik Rasaikar
Disha Nayak Sardesai and Adv Siddharth Sardesai
Dr Kashyap Bandodkar
Dr Neha Sahakari

Covid Service Goa is an online platform which took off when the number of Covid cases in Goa began peaking. The founders of this group are Disha Nayak Sardesai, a law professor and Adv. Siddharth Sardesai, a High Court lawyer, who started this page after their aunt was admitted at the South Goa District Hospital and who later passed on. Having experienced a family member’s distress, they found out that it was very difficult to arrange crucial things like oxygen, food supply at the hospital. They thought of using their ordeal as an opportunity to help others.

Adv Siddharth explains about the platform, Covid Service Goa. “The platform has been split into two different aspects, requirement leads and distress calls. Most of our volunteers who cannot move out from their homes, can help us by verifying the leads that we get, with regards to beds, oxygen, food and plasma. We have a Distress Networking campaign where 17 organisations have got in touch with us and we have collaborated with them. The other aspect of Covid Service Goa is one where patients have no one to look after them. Our volunteers follow up with them, with regards to the requirements of food, oxygen or medicines.”

Disha adds, “We started out with just the two of us. But then our friends wanted to help. We have created a form by way of Google forms, so if anyone wants to volunteer they have to fill up the form and we have a volunteer to verify the information.” The couple says, “We are trying to fight this together.”

Dr Kashyap Bandodkar, a young dentist, was helping out with driving people to and fro from Margao to GMC, for plasma donation, blood donation and even offered to supply home cooked meals to doctors in Margao. Soon, Kashyap got in touch with Disha and Siddharth who thought it would be a good idea to have him on the team. His colleague Dr Neha Sahakari from Goa Dental College and Rajeshwari Naik Rasaikar, who is an advocate, also joined the team. They offer a database of various information that a patient or family, who are infected by Covid, would need.

The database has information on testing labs, hospitals, grocery deliveries, pharmacies, medical deliveries, oxygen supplies and food delivery numbers. They also have around 70 on-ground volunteers that attend to distress calls all over Goa. This is handy for senior citizens and patients who are home isolating and cannot move out. The team at Covid Service Goa realised there was an acute shortage of oxymeters in the home isolation kits. Few of the volunteers came up with an oxymeter bank where they started recycling donated oxymeters. Patients, who have recovered from Covid, donate their oxymeters to this bank, who then pass it on to another family infected by Covid. Along the way, they received help from multiple Rotary Clubs, Lions Club, JCI, and Red Cross with volunteers. Later, Dempo Group came on board and agreed to provide meals for the affected. The team has had multiple generous donors who have donated oximeters, oxygen regulators and oxygen concentrators which patients can make use of at home.

The Service has a team of doctors, physiotherapists, mental health experts and psychologists, who engage in free online consultations and guide people on how to deal with the virus.

Recently, they have started an awareness drive for slum dwellers and a food distribution drive. Kashyap says, “I realised that grassroots level awareness was still missing, so we started engaging the common man on the street. We visited multiple slums and the homeless in and around Margao and educated them on Covid appropriate behaviour, vaccination, importance of early testing and distributed food and masks. Food Drive for the underprivileged is another campaign that we have started.”

Covid Sevice Goa has an Instagram page along with one on Facebook, and a Twitter handle. They have their volunteers who continuously monitor requests from patients and families, and constantly update the information that they have collected. They also try to assist patients in identifying hospitals near them which have beds in case they need to be hospitalized.

Kashyap says that people often call when they have experienced symptoms for 3 or 4 days and don’t know what to do next. “The biggest flaw is that people don’t test thinking it’s a plain flu. Our advice is that as soon as one gets the symptoms go and get one self tested at the nearest Government health centre or private lab. One can look up at the data that we have documented on our site. Second, there are people who are living alone, and if you have someone like that in your neighborhood, please identify them and try to be of help in whatever way you can.”

Going forward, Kashyap adds that people should be cautious when it comes to hygiene, wearing masks and social distancing. “The medical infrastructure in the State has been stretched to a breaking point and needs a breather. We need to ramp up our infrastructure to accommodate the number of cases coming in. As restrictions are relaxed and people start moving out, cases may surge again. We have to take lessons from what happened last year. We have an experience of last year to fall back on to see how we can fight this in the future. It is very important that inspite of taking the vaccine or being infected before, we must understand that the chance of infection is there, that infections will happen and Covid is not going away anytime soon. It is only appropriate behaviour in terms of wearing masks, sanitization, respiratory hygiene has to be followed till we get a definitive treatment for Covid. It has to be a collective effort from the Government and Civil Society so that we can fight it out together”



Every Breath Matters

Atul and Gaurapriya Pai Kane

Good causes attract good people who join in to support you,” says Chairman of Pai Kane Group, Atul Pai Kane.

As the pandemic was on a rise, Atul’s wife Gaurapriya walked up to him and declared that she wished to do something for the covid-affected families. And just like that she has been personally cooking 80 meals a day! Soon, Prahlad and Sabreen Sukhtankar of Blackmarket / Black Sheep Bistro began providing meals to a part of her list. But even after cooking meals day in and day out, Gaurapriya felt that they should be doing more in this moment of crisis. The lack of oxygen concentrators in Goa, was a right pain point that the couple wished to address.

Atul counts his blessings and feels that people with means should give back to the society and so he went with Gaurapriya’s idea of creating a bank for oxygen concentrators to some trade organizations. The lukewarm response left him to explore options within his family run Shri Devidas Pai Kane Health, Education and Fellowship Trust, that otherwise funds educational causes. “We were good to fund 5 oxygen concentrators. But soon other people joined in and today we have 17 machines, which are given to the needy free of cost. The effort of reaching out to the needy is looked after by Karpe family in Mapusa,” adds Atul.

Atul’s business group quickly put up a website where one could enter details and avail the facility. The entire family has chipped in to make this initiative work. With the co-ordination left in the able hands of Sheetal Pai Kane, who also heads CII’s IWN in Goa, Atul and Gaurapriya are left to ideate the program.

As an entrepreneur, for Atul, the pandemic has been a platform to reflect and fine tune the organization, which is Goa’s leading genset manufacturer. Atul has managed to cut through the otherwise uncertain period and focus on his entrepreneurial goals, knowing well that the business place left behind by coronavirus will be vastly different from what it once was, and he wishes to pursue new goals for his enterprise with the same zeal and passion that he has brought to influence a social cause

Mobile Ad 1

Mobile Ad 2