Amrit Kaur Dhaliwal: Grassroots Mobilization At Gurudwara Hargobindsar Provides Oxygen to Delhi

One person can begin efforts like in Gurudwara Hargobindsar Sahib, but it can only be executed and sustained when everyone works together.

Amrit Kaur Dhaliwal
May 6, 2021 | 3 min. read

The sharply rising COVID-19 cases in India are making headlines all around the world. The devastation and death caused by this disease are having irreparable impacts on the health of the most vulnerable people in the country: the poor. 

I look at the images of the mass cremations, the men and women struggling for breath, harangued nurses and doctors trying to relieve their patients’ pain in any way, and feel a sense of helplessness and despair.

What can one person do to help in the face of so much death and illness? The answer, from my personal experience, is that one person can do much but cannot do it alone. 

No one knew this better than our Gurus who organized volunteers and resources from the community to create Gurdwaras that have always been a refuge for the hungry, sick, and dispossessed.

Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji is known for the dispensary he created in  Kiratpur Sahib and Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji is remembered for his contribution in battling the smallpox epidemic that raged in Delhi at the time. Historically, Gurdwaras have not only provided Guru ka langar to everyone who visits, but they have also often filled in for key social safety programs like medical dispensaries, community centres, old folks’ homes, blood drives, and homeless shelters.

In the spirit of service and collaboration, I am honoured to be a part of the work that is taking place in the grassroots communities of New Delhi, spearheaded by Gurdwaras that my grandparents built and served. 

Gurudwara Hargobindsar Sahib, located on GT Karnal Road in Nangli Puna, New Delhi, is currently providing food, medicine, accommodations, and oxygen for many displaced people and people in need who are stranded in the area due to lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The Gurudwara that is my first stop on my trips back to the motherland and the last place I bow my head before boarding the long flight home is now a triage centre providing desperately needed medical aid to the poor and disenfranchised. 

I know it can be hard to trust organizations half a world away that are the crucible of so many scams and frauds in the name of charity. But there are even more people and community organizers who are pouring their all into relief efforts. They are looking up how much it costs to purchase and ship an oxygen concentrator, they are sending money back to seva organizers who are providing langars for the dispossessed, and they are calling up relatives back home to mobilize local Gurudwaras to become makeshift hospitals and medical wards.

Within a few days, the collaborative efforts of locals and NRIs, young volunteers and old, foreign NGOs and teams of sevadars, oxygen concentrators on the ground in Delhi made their way to Gurudwara Hargobindsar Sahib, where they are now being used by those most in need of help. 

The responsibility to ensure that gurudwaras continue to be examples of charity and service to the neediest rests on our shoulders: the people who have such deep roots in India but are fortunate enough to enjoy the privileges countries with better access to medicine and care provide.

In the current climate, when the efforts and funding from local and international governments as well as emergency services are exhausted, it is only appropriate that gurudwaras that have historically been the refuge of so many vulnerable peoples, step in to provide much-needed relief. 

The adage “gareeb da mooh, Guru ki golak”— the mouth of the poor is the donation box of the Guru— is one that the Sikh community worldwide urgently needs to pay heed to at the moment. It is our moral imperative as Sikhs to ensure that our gurudwaras work the way they are meant to: providing the necessary services to the most vulnerable.

One person can begin efforts like in Gurudwara Hargobindsar Sahib, but it can only be executed and sustained when everyone works together. There should be no hungry mouth, no unsheltered head, and no gasping breath anywhere there is a gurudwara.

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Amrit Kaur Dhaliwal is a teacher at a Khalsa School. She originally hails from a village in Moga named Lopon, but Brampton is home. You can find her on twitter @ms_amrit 


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