New Delhi: A war of words breaking out on Twitter is nothing new but this one involves Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj—known for acting swiftly on requests for help from Indian nationals caught in difficult situations.
Of late, Swaraj has been flooded with requests for air ambulance services to transport loved ones home for medical treatment from places as diverse as Austria, the US and Georgia.
This has started a furious debate on Twitter with people like Dhanraj Uchil @UchilDhanraj demanding to know “Why? You want tax payers money for your Papa’ s well being?" This was in response to a request from Lathika @amgnair94 who posted this last month: “I’ve tweeted few weeks back about my papa’s health. I wrote to PM portal also for help but I have not got any response."
“ministry of External affairs is not responsible for such matters, Unless there is epidemic of decease (sic), war conflict," was the response from calmwinds using the Twitter handle eratticritic.
But one instance seems to have started a storm on Twitter.
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Earlier this week, Swaraj disclosed on Twitter that an air ambulance from Medanta Hospital in New Delhi that was on its way to ferry a patient from Bangkok had crashed killing its pilot and injuring two doctors and a nurse on board.
“The injured were shifted to Bangkok Hospital by Army helicopters..Our Mission has just informed me that we have lost pilot of the Air Ambulance Arunaksha Nandy...Dr.Shailendra and Dr Komal are in the ICU. The other two have sustained minor injuries..Our Mission is extending them all help and assistance," Swaraj said in a series of tweets on Monday.
However, Gitika, the Bangkok-based daughter-in-law of Shashi Agarwal, the 60-year-old patient who was to be airlifted by Medanta Hospital’s air ambulance, which crash-landed after a fire some 730km from Bangkok, slammed Swaraj for her apparent lack of concern for the patient.
“They were the angels who were coming for airlifting our mom. You didn’t do anything for us but they were ready to help," Gitika tweeted—in a reference to previous help requested by the family from Swaraj to airlift Shashi who was taken ill during a visit to Bangkok to meet her son, who works as a chartered accountant in a private firm in Bangkok, and daughter in law.
According to news reports, the family had registered for help on the Madad portal—an online grievance redressal forum for overseas Indians in distress and was given information about the prices of air ambulances services. This drew the family’s ire vis-a-vis Swaraj.
But the minister’s legions of Twitter fans were quick to come to her defence—with some questioning why Shashi did not invest in travel insurance before leaving for Bangkok and why an accountant working in Bangkok could not finance an air ambulance service to ferry their sick mother home.
Vivek Wagh, using the Twitter handle @vmwagh, queried :“a CA working in Bangkok for past 5 yrs can’t afford Air Ambulance and blames Indian Govt? Unbelievable." kayvee @vee5712 tweeted: “Shame on you for finding a scapegoat in the minister—why and how is she responsible for mishaps?" Irfan Ali Baig, using the Twitter handle @IrfanAliBaig1, posted “u r requesting or ordering. GOI is not responsible for u r mistake"
“We all feel sad for your family rachit. GOI is not responsible for u not having insurance. SHAME (sic)," tweeted Venugoal from his twitter handle @venunz. “SHAME on you rachit Agrawal for wasting everyone’s time for your prblm. travel insurance is basic (sic)," he said in another tweet, going onto add : “these people are parasites. Will lynch every one for ther (sic) benefit. Sushma Ji we are PROUD of u (sic)."
“Gitika it is not govt responsibility to take care of hospitalization. If you cannot manage, don’t go abroad," was Avijeet Singh’s advice using the handle @Avijeet_03 while Siddarth Pai, tweeting from the handle @siddarthpaim, tagging Swaraj said : “govt must provide assistance to Indians abroad just in War or natural disaster ..these medical cases must be let to themself."
Swaraj restricted herself to merely saying: “I wish I had enough funds to airlift all Indian patients from various countries of the world."
Iceman 12, using the handle @yashodhandere12, was of the view that “Wz due respect, I feel your motherly nature is being misused by some. Please be strict ma’am."