As the country crippled in the vicious clutches of the pandemic, negligent government, collapsing healthcare system, toppling mental health, innumerable deaths and zero accountability made the population witness one of the darkest phases of the century so far. Amidst this nightmare, emerged the heroes behind the screens putting in their toil and efforts to help fellow countrymen when every possible system meant for their aid abandoned them midway.
One such selfless human community is There Is No Earth B, which defied all odds and helped more than 4 lakh people and saved more than 2000 lives. As the name suggests, they have also conducted 232 cleanups and removed 9+ tons of non-biodegradable waste already. Acknowledging and appreciating their contribution towards the war against the unseen enemy and the incompetency of the ones we chose to power, DU EXPRESS got in touch with the community to know more about their journey so far and experience during the recent crisis.
What is TINEB? What has been the driving force and motto of TINEB so far?
‘There Is No Earth B’ is a leaderless people’s movement, consistently working on the ground since 2018 with an ever-growing group of volunteers who passionately commit themselves to advance decentralized climate actions. Our motto has been to support, encourage and facilitate the way for inclusive, organic, and decentralized climate action and advocacy. We are driven by the organic participation of all the stakeholders steering towards a more sustainable and equitable planet. We are nothing if not for the people standing with us and their support has enabled us to gather public support for advocacy engaging with 1,49,565 citizens (like Save Dumna and Save Sattal), and spreading awareness that has reached over 61,62,539 people.
As the pandemic surged in India during the past few months, what did it take for
TINEB to draw fluid leads and resource verification platform?
Leveraging our online presence, we quickly focused our energy on verifying and sharing the
resource list. The problem of infodemic had to be combated and it was crucial to share only
verified and targeted information considering it was a matter of life and death for someone. We created an online network where the volunteers were personally verifying each lead and
resource by calling hospitals, medical suppliers, oxygen refilling stations and so on. Everyone had equal ownership of work. We created different channels for oxygen, hospital beds, food and other essentials, ambulance, medicines and flagging frauds sorted by geographical location. Our team had to make judicious calls and chose not to enclose the contacts of the suppliers who were demanding advance payments. This bolstered our effort in all necessary directions without having to compromise the information of any available resource. Given the taxing and consuming nature of the work, we had to ensure that the workflow was easy to navigate and we did not have to hold onboarding for anyone. Each verified lead was automatically published on the website shielding loss of time. Also acknowledging that not everyone has access to the internet, we accepted verified leads via texts and phone, updated it quickly on our website and shared it widely on our social media platforms via tap to text format. On the publishing front, our attempt had been to democratize information as much as possible. To that end, we attempted to translate and publish our content to local languages. Everything is published in a tap to call format with visitors not having to spend more than 1-2 minutes to find what they are looking for.
How did the volunteers look after their mental health during these testing times?
We established mechanisms and safeguards to prioritize the mental well being of our
team. Counselling sessions provided by Jhatkaa.org and CSRD equipped us with the tools to take care of ourselves, allowed us to be vulnerable and heal while taking care of our mental health. There Is No Earth B also sent out pizzas to the volunteers as a token of our love and appreciation. The team is like a close-knit community constantly taking care of each other, quickly noticing if a teammate is not doing well and making sure that we are there for them. We also spend time together listening to music to blow off steam after an exhaustive day of work. We are also constantly dropping encouragement for each other and sharing the good response that we get!
What does TINEB think should have been the measures for better functioning of the healthcare facilities during the pandemic?
We would like to abstain from commenting on the planned obsolescence and request the
responsible agencies and powers to take into confidence both the scientific and medical
community while making decisions.
What kind of hurdles did the volunteers face?
As the cases surged, resources were getting exhausted quickly and the attendants and family members took out the angst on our volunteers. Such behaviour was discouraging but it was important for us to acknowledge that it was not personal and they were just grieving and channelling their frustration at the wrong gate. Government officials have also lashed out at the volunteers and asked them to do their personal work rather than helping the patients. At times volunteers have had to spend their day calling the hospitals, oxygen suppliers etc., without any response, pulling down the morale of the team. Suppliers would often switch off their phones making the lead obsolete and the work had to be started from scratch. It was arduous to find fresh leads when requests were forwarded during odd hours. We were not able to find refilling stations and there were also inadequate oxygen refilling stations. There was a flood of requests and mostly without requisition slips or medical records. The volunteers had to re-verify and also rely on the information provided on the basis of pictures of medical documents. There was also a challenge of dispersing knowledge in all the regional languages and reaching out to remote areas. Digital harassment also had been an issue compromising the personal contact and names of
the volunteers to potentially dangerous people. Identifying contacts of black marketers
floating around the web was also difficult. We were powerless to help economically weaker
families and hence we had to rely on fundraisers for the patients in need of financial help.
Even after receiving the news of the patient’s demise, volunteers could not express their grief or mourn for the people they were trying to help. Volunteers ended up suppressing their emotions. Not only were the resources exhausted but the volunteers too. Worst of all, lack of sympathy and support from family and friends contributed to anger, confusion, disappointment, frustration, burnout and emotional breakdown.
From an impromptu cleanup conducted by 11 people at the deer park entry and the parking lot of Hauz Khas Village on the fine day of 23rd June 2018 to weekly climate action through their big family of selfless volunteers, TINEB celebrates three years of consistent efforts towards a sustainable change because indeed there is no earth B.
There Is No Earth B may be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org