Gurudwaras offer a ray of hope and timely help in these grim times

From setting up oxygen langars and Covid-19 care centres to providing medicines, ambulance services and food to patients, gurudwaras are working round-the-clock to alleviate the sufferings of people

Published: May 13, 2021 01:51:03 PM IST
Updated: May 13, 2021 03:55:56 PM IST

A 400-bed Covid-19 care centre opened at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, located in New Delhi's main government district

As India’s health care infrastructure is put to test by the second wave of the coronavirus, citizens have been stepping up to help the needy. Acts of arranging beds, oxygen and medical aid or simply amplifying such messages have been a ray of hope during a rather grim phase. Among the establishments that have been working overtime to assist the distressed are the gurudwaras of Delhi. Managed by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), they have been providing on-ground support since March 2020 when the pandemic began affecting the lives of people adversely. With the second wave creating greater havoc, they have ramped up their efforts by providing oxygen langars and beds, among other things.

On Monday, a 400-bed Covid-19 care centre opened at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, located in New Delhi's main government district. The facility is equipped with essential oxygen support and medicines. If patients develop symptoms, they can be shifted to the Lok Nayak Hospital that the centre is affiliated with. It is one of the three makeshift hospitals DSGMC wants to establish. The other two are currently being set up. 

Gurudwaras have been providing ‘oxygen langars’ to severely ill Covid-19 patients. Helplines have also been functional to help people identify the facilities they can visit to get oxygen support till they are admitted to a hospital. “As we speak, there are around 150 people on oxygen support at Gurudwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha. We’re also trying to provide cylinders at home for Covid-19 patients who can’t travel to the facility, but need immediate support,” says Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. “My team and I work round-the-clock to help as much as we can. Among innumerable distress calls, we have to choose whom we can help… and that isn’t an easy choice to make.”   

With cases swelling across the country, including in the national capital, gurudwara volunteers have been on their toes when it comes to delivering food as well. “When the lockdown was announced in Delhi last April, we knew we’d have to ramp up our efforts. We’ve been delivering food and water to families with Covid-19, migrant labourers and people living in clusters, jhuggis and other parts of Delhi,” says Sirsa. In a day, gurudwaras deliver around 5,000 packets of food across the city to Covid-19 patients while around 25,000 people are offered food through DCSM’s ‘langar on wheels’ initiative where trucks with food travel to different locations, and people queue up to get a meal. 

They are also providing ambulance services for Covid-19 patients. Around 300 volunteers, and 200 doctors and nurses are working day and night to ensure no call for help goes unanswered.   

Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee

Despite such monumental efforts, Sirsa and his volunteers feel helpless at times. “Just a couple of days ago, a close friend needed oxygen support… his family and I tried our best to arrange for a cylinder, but we couldn’t, and we lost him,” he says. “Imagine the plight of a family that has the money to pay for essentials and influential friends, but still can’t save their own. Among the people I know, at least 50 have died in the past month and I couldn’t help them at all,” he rues. 

Sirsa and his team have divided Delhi into 46 constituencies with each serving member of DSGMC providing resources for each clusters. “Each member has a team of volunteers that is actively working towards sourcing and providing resources in their respective clusters,” he says. 

The risk of contracting the virus doesn’t scare them. “When we started, I made a public announcement informing everyone of the risk of working for the cause. People aren’t worried about themselves, but about those who are suffering. Despite having their own families, they are toiling 24x7 to help people across the city,” says Sirsa, adding that numerous WhatsApp groups have also been formed where demand for resources are shared so that volunteers can address those needs. “Whether it is to deliver food or other essentials or arrange for oxygen, our volunteers travel miles each day to serve critical patients,” he says.  

Sirsa’s day starts at 6 am with team meetings where they take stock of all activities and discuss ways to operate efficiently. From 7 am, he starts visiting gurudwaras, meeting patients, helping volunteers arrange for essentials, and attending distress calls till late at night when he speaks with people across the world who are willing to offer resources. “It’s an 18- to 20-hour job a day now… I go to sleep only around 3 am,” he says. 

DSCMC is known for its relief efforts globally, which has helped it source oxygen concentrators and cylinders, ventilators, medicines and other resources. “I get numerous calls every day from people wanting to provide support and resources. We have been getting oxygen and other resources from America, Europe, and other parts of the world,” he says. 

For Sirsa and those working with the gurudwaras, service to people is their primary objective. “Since our birth, we're taught that seva (service) should be our utmost priority. The second wave is beyond the worst one could imagine… we are losing people who could have been saved if we had the right resources at the right time. Our aim is to reduce the suffering and help people recover from this deadly disease,” he says. 

Click here to see Forbes India's comprehensive coverage on the Covid-19 situation and its impact on life, business and the economy​

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