Power of a Tweet | Milaap

Power of a Tweet

This summer, my good friend Prateek visited me in Oxford from Chicago and we decided to spend a weekend in North Wales. During the whole trip, Prateek seemed restless and was having animated conversations with his sister Priyanka (in Kolkata) over the phone. It was about a young and ‘poor’ boy Suman, who had Japanese Encephalitis. Suman’s father didn’t have the money to admit his child in a hospital and had already lost his wife to another disease. Prateek and Priyanka  started a campaign in Milaap.org to raise funds for Suman’s treatment.

Sadly, in about three weeks, only Rs 7000 (~$105) was raised and time was running out. Prateek and Priyanka had lost all hopes of saving Suman. On our return journey from Wales, Prateek was visibly upset and we both were discussing ideas to raise funds for Suman. It was then that I suggested he talk to Mr Shashi Tharoor (MP from Thiruvananthapuram, India, who has more than 4 million followers on Twitter and over thousands of loyal fans) about tweeting the campaign link.

Having personally interacted with him, as the President of Oxford India Society, when we invited him to Oxford last May (he delivered the famous Oxford Union speech during the same trip), I was certain he would help us. Unsurprisingly, he did (picture below). In a short time, over two lakh rupees (~$3000) were raised, which was enough to get Suman started on his treatment. Today, we received an update that Suman is recovering well and will start living a normal life in  two years if everything goes well.

This whole episode raised many questions in my mind. Why is India not as self sufficient as the UK to start something like NHS (free health service for everyone)? How important and powerful crowdfunding can be. Is it sustainable for a rich or an affluent person to monetarily start helping everyone in need? When Mr Tharoor tweeted about Suman, there were many who tweeted to him, saying that he was rich enough to help Suman himself and he should be like Mr Modi who often helps citizens monetarily or by some other means. Personally, I am a big fan of Mr Modi (but not a Modi-bhakt) but I am skeptical of his idea of helping everyone who writes to PMO for monetary or administrative help.

Although charitable, this is an ad hoc way of fixing India’s problems. Instead, the job of the Prime Minister's Office, hence the government, is to find and provide a sustainable solution to the problems, as we see in countries like UK, Finland, Denmark or Netherlands. Mr Tharoor could have helped Suman himself by donating the money but he knew that if he did that, he would receive requests from thousands of other people for monetary help. Since it would be practically impossible for him to oblige everyone, he just tweeted about it. Crowdfunding can be  powerful if used responsibly. Last month, Prateek wrote an article suggesting a three-point measure to improve India’s healthcare after Suman’s episode (picture below).

There are many Sumans in India with health related problems. It is imperative for the government to come up with a blueprint, which will address these national challenges. India has its own space program we are knocking on the doors of United Nations Organization to make us a permanent member of its Security Council, and above all, we are a nuclear power. We need to be able to help every Suman in the country get a proper education and good healthcare.

The writer is a graduate Student, University of Oxford, and a friend of the champion of this campaign.