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Sandeep Singh: Sikhs To The Rescue As India's COVID-19 Crisis Rages
Sikhs in India continue to rise to the occasion by providing much-needed medical seva in the spirit of sarbat da bhala
April 26, 2021 | 3 min. Read
As COVID-19 ravages India, exposing government incompetency and bringing the country’s healthcare system to a collapse, Sikh organizations have moved quickly to save lives.
It is not lost on many that the very same Sikhs organizations that are now being widely lauded as heroes amidst what is one of the greatest humanitarian crisis ever to face India, were only recently labeled as anti-nationals and terrorists for providing aid at the Farmers’ Protest over the last few months. Including many baseless accusations from pro-Modi supporters and media regarding their funding sources
Still, that has not stopped the likes of Khalsa Aid and Hemkunt Foundation from serving humanity at this critical juncture.
Khalsa Aid launched a COVID helpline via a public WhatsApp number where anyone in Delhi can send a request for aid. They have received thousands of messages for help since its launch.
“Nearly a week ago, when we started our seva, most people were demanding oxygen cylinders. Then we learned of an oxygen leak incident in a Maharashtra hospital, where at least a dozen people died. There was also an issue of refilling oxygen cylinders. It was at that point we thought that we need to provide oxygen concentrators,” Amarpreet Singh, Director of Khalsa Aid Asia Pacific, shared with Baaz.
They have distributed 65 concentrators in the first phase, and have plans to distribute another 35 in the second phase.
“The biggest issue we are facing is that there is not enough supply of concentrators in India. Most of the concentrators are being imported,” Amarpreet Singh said.
“The next time we get a supply of concentrators we will also start work in Punjab,” he added.
Hemkunt Foundation, which has been active across Farmers’ Protest sites, has also come to the aid of COVID patients in Delhi. They have distributed oxygen cylinders from its headquarter in Gurgaon, including home delivery.
They receive thousands of distress calls every day, keeping up the demand as best as possible. While they are providing their service free of cost, they do require a security deposit of 10,000 rupees which is refunded on the return of the cylinder.
It is not easy to procure cylinders in Delhi, which is why Hemkunt Foundation arranges for them from neighbouring states. However, just yesterday, their truck carrying a fresh shipment from Rajasthan was seized by local police while patients were patiently waiting outside the organization’s headquarters for the delivery.
Farm unions, through SKM, have also been working to support the fight against COVID in Delhi. In a press release issued on Monday, SKM said that it will start distributing food packets and other essential goods to Delhi’s hospitals. It claimed that the service to Delhi’s hospital will begin on Tuesday at Singhu Border. Farmers at Gazipur border have already started a food service and they are preparing distribution to different parts of Delhi.
Farm unions also held a meeting with Haryana government officials and agreed to clear paths for oxygen tankers and ambulances. Nihangs were seen clearing the path over the weekend. Police-built concrete barricades on the highway are now the only obstacle for oxygen tankers and ambulances attempting to take National Highway 44 to Delhi.
Amarpreet Singh also shared that Khalsa Aid will be talking to farm leaders to being a redistribution of masks and sanitizers to demonstrators still on site. Volunteers will start distribution via trolleys shortly.
Even pro-farmer Twitter accounts, that have amassed large followings over the Farmers’ Protest by sharing up-to-date information regarding the demonstrations, have been using their platforms to put out SOS tweets seeking oxygen or hospital beds for those in need. Many Indians have turned to one another on social media for assistance as the government has failed to fill the gap between patients in need and critical medical support.
Sikh support is not limited to Delhi, as they have also been providing humanitarian aid in southern India, where the community is quite small.
In the Telangana town of Secunderabad, Gurudwara Singh Sabha is providing free cylinders to COVID patients. To get one, the Gurudwara only demands a COVID-19 positive report, a doctor-recommended prescription for the need for oxygen, an aadhar card, and a refundable security deposit of 2,000 rupees.
In fact, Gurdwaras across India are offering similar “oxygen seva”, garnering global media attention as well.
As the world watches India’s pandemic response spiral at an unprecedented rate, and international aid starts pouring in, Sikhs in India continue to rise to the occasion by providing much-needed medical seva in the spirit of sarbat da bhala.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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