This article has been published in partnership with Dettol India.
There’s no doubt that India struggled during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. As thousands were in desperate need of basic medical facilities like ambulances, hospital beds or even oxygen cylinders, some took this adversity as an opportunity to go above and beyond to help people selflessly.
Several ordinary citizens came together to fight the good fight against COVID-19 as nothing short of heroes. These are individuals, just like you and me, with financial constraints, limited resources or dependent family members. But, the limitations in their personal lives have not deterred them, rather encouraged such heroes to help those in need, in whatever way possible.
To recognise their noble efforts, Dettol—a germ protection brand under Reckitt in partnership with The Better India—recently launched a new campaign called #DettolSalutes to pay tribute to 100 unsung heroes of the pandemic. To do so, as part of the campaign the company has replaced the brand logo of Dettol on its liquid hand wash packs with an image of protectors and their inspiring stories.
Talking about the vision behind such an initiative, Dilen Gandhi, regional marketing director, South Asia — Health and Nutrition, said, “During the second wave, hope was subdued. It was replaced by panic, fear and a sense of hopelessness. We realised that the positive actions and support of others around gave people hope and so we decided to tell these stories.”
Encapsulating the inspiring stories of hope and self-sacrifice of our COVID heroes, Dettol will be selling almost 4 million #DettolSalute packs on e-commerce channels and across 5 lakh stores in India. Each story of the COVID protectors outlines the positive impact even individual efforts can have on an entire nation. Here are some of the inspiring stories of COVID heroes being honoured by their campaign:
Mounted atop bicycles, Sathya Sankaran with a group of 650 volunteer cyclists is running an initiative to deliver food, medicine and other essentials to COVID-19 patients and senior citizens. They aim to tackle not one but two global crises — the pandemic and environmental degradation.
With more than 100 deliveries a day, Sathya’s Relief Riders are operating in 10 cities namely- Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Hubli-Dharwad, Silvassa, Guwahati, Gurugram, Jaipur and Belagavi. They take all necessary precautions to safely deliver your supplies, even during a lockdown. And they do it all without adding a single ounce of carbon emission to the environment.
A humble man from Hyderabad, Malleshwar Rao is refilling 70-80 oxygen cylinders each day from Cherlapally Industrial Area and delivers them to Durgabai Deshmukh Hospital and Tirumala Hospital on his four-wheeler.
Since the first wave, he has provided grocery kits to 70,000 families, served food to over 5,000 people every day and donated 23,000 PPE kits and 6,000 masks. He has distributed water bottles among frontline workers, helped 150 people with emergencies by arranging calls with doctors and also distributed 50 tonnes of fruits and vegetables.
Akshay Sanjay Kothawale
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Akshay Sanjay Kothawale, an autorickshaw driver from Pune, decided to use the Rs 2 lakh he had saved for his wedding to feed the poor. To date, he has arranged food for over 1,550 families and continues to distribute food packets to migrant workers in Pune daily.
As people faced difficulty finding transport during the lockdown, Akshay is also ferrying people in need, to and from the hospital. He makes it a point to give medical workers a free ride in his auto and wishes to continue helping people in whatever way he can.
A teacher by profession, Haresh Shah has been relentlessly working to help people since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. He has been predominantly working in the rural areas of Maharashtra by collaborating with other partners and setting up six COVID-19 treatment and recovery centres in the highly impacted areas.
Haresh has also been running a continuous COVID-19 assistance helpline. Additionally, he and some volunteers have managed to arrange 48 plasma donors for people who needed them and around 30 hospital beds in different parts of the country. He has also managed to arrange 11 oxygen cylinders and helped provide essential medicines to patients.
In April 2021, Hyderabad-based pastry chef Gowri Bakaraju got news about 11 of her family members contracting the coronavirus. This personal crisis pushed her to empathise with other COVID-positive patients, especially those who were struggling to access basic facilities like food and essentials. That is when she decided to start serving home-cooked meals for COVID-19 patients admitted to government hospitals.
With the help of her parents and four volunteers—namely Vysali Somanchi, Surya Somanchi, Monica Reddy and Anurag Reddy—she has been distributing more than 100 packets of lunch a day outside hospitals. Post the easing of lockdown restrictions, she has begun to serve breakfast too.
Vedika Agarwal, a resident of Chennai, has been working tirelessly through the COVID-19 pandemic to help out people from less-privileged communities. She has been doing this with the help of her non-profit, ‘Yein Udaan’.
Working with the Chennai City Police, she has provided groceries to 70,000 people and sanitation supplies to 3,000 people across Tamil Nadu. She has also set up multiple home libraries with laptops and learning aids including books, board games and stationery.
Sourav Das, Lakmi Das, Chittranjan Biswas
In March 2020, when Sourav Das came home one day after buying a mask, his mother, Laxmi, reprimanded him for wasting money. It was a mask worth Rs 300 that was not washable, reusable or even breathable and so his mother, a skilled seamstress decided to make masks at home.
She sourced fabric from her brother, Chittranjan Biswas and began stitching the masks herself. To help his mother’s initiative, Sourav created a mask dispenser in his area in Delhi and began distributing masks for free among house help, vendors and hawkers across the city.
During the second wave, Sourav converted his bike into a mask dispenser and has been able to distribute 1,500 masks. Since the pandemic, Sourav and his mother have distributed over 7,000 homemade masks for free.
Matron Jeminiben Joshi
A 71-year-old resident of Dahod, Gujarat, Matron Jeminiben Joshi spent more than half her life as a nurse in a government hospital until she retired in 2009. But when the pandemic struck and the need for trained healthcare workers like her became extremely essential, she decided to come out of her retirement and take up active nursing duty at the Zydus hospital.
Working 12 hours a day, administering medicines, oxygen and taking samples for testing, she is determined to keep helping those who are ill.
Fourth-year engineering student Kaushik Raj attends COVID SOS calls for almost 21 hours a day, to help more than 3,000 people so far. The Delhi-based student says that sleeping makes him feel guilty, especially when he thinks about all the missed or unattended SOS calls.
Sleeping only 3 hours a day, he spends the rest helping strangers procure medical essentials like oxygen cylinders, ventilators, hospital beds, etc. He and his team of 60 volunteers receive more than 200 calls a day per person.
Gaurav Rai, a resident of Patna, Bihar, is no less than a lifesaver for the people of his state. Earning himself the name of ‘Oxygen Man’, Gaurav has been able to save over 1,500 lives across the state by providing free oxygen cylinders to COVID-19 patients who were critically ill.
Gaurav, who works in a private company in the city, believes that one can get a new car or new clothes late in life but cannot get one’s life back. With this thought, he has spent around Rs 1.25 lakh from his savings to procure oxygen cylinders for needy patients. To reach out to as many people as possible, Gaurav has started an oxygen bank at his house. He gets calls as early as 5 am and continues working till 10 pm for this cause.
At a time when the entire country was battling the deadly second wave, Gaurav put his own life at risk to deliver oxygen. Every time a patient who had taken oxygen from him recovers, Gaurav takes them a cake to celebrate the beginning of their new life.
You can share stories of the protectors you have come across, here.