NEW DELHI — Rajni Gill woke up with a slight fever in mid-April, the first warning that she had Covid-19. Within a few days, she was breathless and nearly unconscious in a hospital.
Desperate to arrange plasma treatment for Ms. Gill, a gynecologist in the city of Noida, her family called doctors, friends, anyone they thought could help. Then her sister posted a plea on Facebook: “I am looking for a plasma donor for my sister who is hospitalized in Noida. She is B positive and is 43.”
The message, quickly amplified on Twitter, flashed across the phone of Srinivas B.V., an opposition politician in nearby Delhi, who was just then securing plasma for a college student. He deputized a volunteer donor to rush to the blood bank for Ms. Gill.
“The administration and systems have collapsed,” Mr. Srinivas said. “I have never seen so many people dying at the same time.”
tuk-tuk drivers, who have mobilized online to help the sick, some of them hundreds of miles away. Collectively, they have formed grass-roots networks that are stepping in where state and national governments have failed.
It is a role that Mr. Srinivas, 38, has played before in times of crisis.
As the president of the opposition Indian National Congress party’s youth league, he has provided support after natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods. He has worked to get textbooks to underprivileged children and medicine to people who couldn’t afford it.
India locked down, Mr. Srinivas galvanized young volunteers across the country who distributed food for stranded migrants, along with more than 10 million masks. He now heads a team of 1,000 people, including 100 in Delhi, the center of the current outbreak.