COVID-19 outbreak has not been able to shut their social drive. They are the ones who have taken self-responsibility and have stepped out to serve humanity in the midst of coronavirus scare.
While organisations like Guru Singh Sabha, Sant Nirankari Mission and Sood Sabha in Shimla have always remained on the forefront to provide succour to the needy whatever the situation be, many social activists have also continued to work with the same commitment in COVID-19 scenario.
“Now that people are in utmost need, our service becomes all the more important,” said Sarbjeet Singh Bobby, for whom, it is a self-defined duty to serve the ‘living and the dead’ in Shimla.
Bobby has been running funeral van, ambulances for cancer patients and free food to hospital patients and their attendants through ‘Almighty Blessings’ for past many years with funding by self and donations.
The only difference in COVID-19 situation is that instead of daily ‘langar sewa’ at the Cancer hospital in Indira Gandhi Medical College Shimla and Kamla Nehru Hospital Shimla, he is now giving fresh-packed ‘khichdi’ to patients, attendants and the hospital staff (with hospital canteens and markets closed), taking all precautions of social distancing and personal protection to prevent COVID-19.
As private transport is not allowed, the burden on the three ambulances run by him has increased manifold. “We transport cancer patients for chemotherapy to Cancer hospital, many others for dialysis in the Shimla municipality area, taking all laid down precautions. However, our request for dead body bags, which are very important to transport dead bodies in the midst of COVID-19, is still pending with the administration,” said Bobby.
Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation and a noted disability rights activist, is equally spirited. Immediately as COVID-19 effect was visible in Himachal in March, he pro-actively raised the issue of acute shortage of blood in Blood Banks in government hospitals in Shimla (which would have created hurdles in emergency operations).
He made the state government notify guidelines for blood donation camps during coronavirus outbreak and motivated volunteers to come out.
Scared of COVID-19, the camps were not being held for past some time. The voluntary blood donation in Blood Banks too had dropped due to lockdown. “After the guidelines were notified, Umang Foundation arranged two blood donation camps in Shimla district, one in Mashobra and another in Sunni, collecting 40 and 46 blood units, respectively,” he said.
It was quite a hassle to hold camps in such a situation, with permission required for even individual donors, but Srivastava did it all, in the interest of humanity.
“I have now written to the Governor that similar camps should be organised in the entire state through Red Cross Society (which has government patronage) during the lockdown,” he said. The Foundation is also distributing ration, adding soaps and sanitary pads in packets (the most important items) to the needy in Shimla by mobilizing funds from locals.
In a similar model of raising funds from different sections, a teacher in Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and Joint Secretary of Sunil Upadhyaya Education Trust here, Nitin Vyas is also seen outdoors with other friends in COVID-19 lockdown to lend a helping hand to marginalized sections in Shimla.
The Trust is providing ration to the daily wagers, who have lost their livelihood in lockdown, the taxi drivers and the like.
“We also arrange fodder for horses owned by poor families in Shimla, so that the latter doesn’t suffer,” said Vyas, former state President of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP).