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A few days ago, the parents of a three-and-a-half-year-old autistic child in Berhampore, Odisha, approached an IPS officer with an urgent request. They were out of camel milk, and as the child is allergic to cow milk, they needed to replenish their stock urgently.
The product is quite difficult to obtain in the state even under normal circumstances, and during the lockdown, it became a near-impossible task.
The IPS officer directed them to SETU—a 24×7 nationwide helpline dedicated to supplying essentials to citizens.
Launched by IRTS officers across the country, the emergency helpline primarily facilitates the transport of medicines, healthcare supplies and other essentials amid lockdown.
Alongside, they are also helping connect rural farmers to urban consumers and thereby bridging the lockdown-related demand-supply gap in the country.
Thanks to the intervention of IRTS officials, the district administration and police authorities, fresh camel milk was delivered from Rajasthan to the little boy within just two days. They also arranged it for some other children in remote parts of Rajasthan and Odisha as well.
This is just one of the many heartwarming anecdotes of the extraordinary endeavour by SETU warriors, which comprise senior IRTS officials as well as probationary trainees in the service.
Delivering Medicines in the Nick of Time
Tundla’s Assistant Transportation Manager Sanjay Kumar, who ideated the concept along with his senior Sanchit Tyagi and two of his batchmates, IRTS officers Mallela Srikant and Vishal Arjun RG, shares the details with The Better India.
“When the lockdown started, we received reports that many people urgently required medicines and other essentials which needed to be transported from other states. We were getting such reports from all across the country. The district administrations were also clueless about how to manage such supplies. The suppliers were also at a fix wondering how they will get the essential goods delivered on time, including medical supplies. That’s why we decided to step in,” says Kumar.
On 15th March, the nationwide emergency helpline termed ‘SETU’ was opened. The helpline—8448848477—was initially dedicated towards patients with life-threatening diseases like cancer or elderly and differently-abled individuals staying alone and in urgent need of medical supplies.
Kumar shares, “For instance, we served one widowed mother in Mathura, who needed some SOS medicines for her psychiatric issues. The nearest availability of the medicine was in Agra, but she couldn’t travel that distance amid lockdown.”
“So, we contacted the Agra district administration who helped bring the medicine to the railway station, from where we transported it through a special train. Finally, the medicine was delivered to her doorstep by NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) personnel.”
Facilitating COVID-19 Pharmaceutical Deliveries
The officials have collaborated with district administrations and police to form an integrated network of connectivity that ensures the fastest transport of urgent products. Pharmaceutical companies form one of the major users of SETU.
As the need for products like PPE kits, COVID-19 testing kits, ventilators, surgical goods, thermometers, safety goggles, masks, active pharma ingredients, bleaches etc. is emerging from nooks and corners of the country, team SETU is not just facilitating their direct movement but also helping with the transhipment of goods at critical junctions where direct trains are not available.
“Within just 36 hours, we have promptly delivered a record 30 tonnes of pharmaceutical supplies, so that our frontline health workers do not face any shortage,” says Kumar.
He adds that due to their brilliant transport facilities, a group of leading pharmaceutical manufacturers in Tirupur have even resumed production in a war footing, which got halted before due to uncertainty of transportation.
Alongside medicine and pharmaceutical goods, SETU has also helped deliver grocery products which were an urgency. For example, woman in Punjab with Celiac Disease (commonly known as gluten allergy) was not getting gluten-free flour anywhere in lockdown and was on the brink of a serious illness. SETU facilitators delivered an adequate quantity of the product to her just in the nick of time.
SETU: A multi-faceted crisis helpline
Despite their initial objective of delivering only emergency products, the helpline was soon flooded with frantic calls from people with all kinds of earnest requests—ranging from a labourer being harassed by his landlord to vacate amidst lockdown to farmers seeking a way of selling their seasonal harvest.
The helpline received frantic calls from farmers who wanted to sell their products somehow, fearing the risk of wastage and loss due to inadequacy of storage facilities. “We helped the farmers connect with retail market chains and residential welfare associations across the country and are now enabling delivery of fresh farm vegetables. We thus helped in bridging the buyer-supplier gap,” reveals Kumar.
The officials behind SETU
The operating system has now been segregated under three heads—pharmaceuticals, agricultural, and other miscellaneous emergencies, each coordinated by designated IRTS officials.
A team of 20 probationary officers in Udaipur are presently attending to all the calls daily, the number of which have crossed 2000 by now.
Another team of 24 probationers in Vadodara are attending to the requests sent through Twitter or other social media platforms. Senior officers Suhani Mishra and Sanchit Tyagi comprise the Escalation Group overseeing the entire operations and resolving any concerns.
For anyone in urgent need of any help during this lockdown, the SETU helpline is open 24×7—8448848477. Requests can also be made through their Twitter handle—https://twitter.com/IRTS_SETU.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)