Zeeshan Siddique, the youngest MLA from the Bandra East constituency is trying to assure people in distress that they can be helped with adequate treatment, admission to hospital, and vaccination. In an exclusive interview with Afternoon Voice, Siddique has shared his experiences with our correspondent Hema Singh.
What has motivated you towards charitable services?
Back when we were hit by the first wave of COVID, we started (me and my team) helping people, we were not aware of the hospitals the patients are visiting. Initially, we launched a helpline number only for Bandra, Khar and Santacruz, the constituencies I represent. With time the helpline number started getting popular and we started receiving calls from across Mumbai, Thane, and the MMR region.
At one stage when the cases of COVID were decreasing, we saw fewer calls for help and requests. However, when the second wave hit the nation, our main aim was always to help as many people as we can.
Tell us about your state of mind when you help people across Maharashtra?
When you help more and more people amid this tough phase of life, it feels amazing. When we call 10 different hospitals for beds, oxygen, or ventilators and can help the patient with his admission, the way the patient and his family members talk is soothing and satisfying for us.
Your team gets most of the calls for ICU bed’s availability in the nighttime, how many of those calls do you attend and resolve the issues?
I am awake all night specially to reply and answer as many calls and messages as I can. In the morning the doctors, deans, and nurses are present in the facility but during the night it is difficult to reach them. So, between 12 to 6 am, there is a lot of panic and fear in people.
How difficult is it to accommodate the needs of so many people?
Initially, we forward the information that we receive about a patient to the BMC wards, though if we still get a call from the same patient or his relative, we personally look into their problems. We first see where the need is or where the person resides (location) later we start calling hospitals, small nursing homes, private centres around their vicinity.
How many calls on average do you receive every day?
I don’t know the exact number, but at minimum, we get 500 calls and more than thousands of requests on social media. And these calls and messages are not limited to Mumbai or Maharashtra.
How do you explain your services as a political leader towards the betterment of Maharashtra?
I have said this in the pre-covid era, at that time I or any other leaders of Maharashtra were not aware of the severity of this pandemic. But challenges are what makes a person strong. I want to work for Maharashtra not only in the urban but as well as the rural areas.
What kind of people approach you for aid?
All types of people are coming for help from the middle class to the lower class, people from slums to high-rises.
What advice would you give to the Centre amidst this global pandemic?
I feel there should be no politics amid the global pandemic and there should not be any indifference towards Maharashtra, and it should get the oxygen or other help that the state has asked for because this demand is to save the lives of people.
Which political leader has influenced you the most?
Since I was 4 years old, I have seen my father (Baba Siddique) working for society and the love received for him. He has always inspired me through his work. Besides him, as I belong to the Congress party hence, my biggest inspiration would be Mr Rahul Gandhi. In fact, he is the reason that I am in politics right now.
As a political leader, what aims you have for the future?
I was elected at a very young age as an MLA. A lot of people were hesitant to believe in me, saying I was young for politics. But after two years down the line, the perception has changed towards me, as they have seen me working day and night, especially during this pandemic.
As a leader, my first responsibility is towards the people of my constituency because they are the reason for what I am today. My main vision is to serve people. I want to be the voice of people, which is currently underplayed.