Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee President Manjinder Singh Sirsa has told Sputnik that not only the Indian government, but the state governments as well failed in assessing the COVID-19 situation and started preparations for the second wave of the coronavirus too late. He also shared how the committee is ramping up its efforts to fight a potential third wave, which is widely anticipated to hit the country in September.
Sputnik: What kind of initiatives have been taken by the Gurdwara Management Committee during the COVID crisis?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: We started various initiatives but as of now our 400-bed makeshift hospital at the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj is operative. The hospital at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj was started in only 10 days. We organised various oxygen langars [community kitchen in a gurdwara] but now since the situation is under control we have started providing oxygen concentrators to the needy at their homes. We have made an oxygen concentrator bank and our 46 volunteers make it available to the public when needed. Currently, our 500 concentrators are being used by people in various parts of Delhi. Apart from this, we are providing packed food to around 4,000 COVID patients and to almost 25,000 people living in the clusters who are not able to afford food during the crisis.
Sputnik: Are you planning any other initiatives?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: Now we are planning to provide a free-of-cost dialysis facility to COVID patients at our Guru Harkrishan Hospital. As of now, free dialysis service is being provided to general patients and soon we will add 25 more beds on the other floor where this facility will be available for COVID patients. Then we are also going to start another COVID-dedicated hospital in the next 60 days.
We have already started preparations for the third wave, as we will also have ICU facilities for children in this hospital. We have also purchased 300 oxygen cylinders from England. The government of France has extended its support and provided us with oxygen generators. The Australian government and the governor of New York have also assured us that they will provide us beds, ventilators, and medical equipment.
Sputnik: How did you manage to operate the facilities amid a shortage of oxygen and medicines?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: The shortage of oxygen and other things was a major challenge. We procured oxygen from various states like Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, etc. We even had to buy the oxygen cylinders, flow meters, and other equipment at three times the actual price. But then we started getting support from across the globe. The Indian diaspora from the USA, Canada, various parts of the UK, New Zealand, Germany, etc., came forward and donated oxygen concentrators. A lot of people donated the medicines and even distributors gave [them to] us at the actual cost. We provided the medicines free of cost to patients.
Sputnik: Where do you think the state and federal governments failed in controlling the COVID crisis in the country?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: The situation got worse because neither the union government nor the state governments were prepared for such a huge second wave. I think the governments failed miserably in assessing the situation. They were late in procuring the resources required to tackle the virus and they were not even enough. If the governments had assessed the situation at the right time, then it would've been an exaggeration to say that we could have saved almost 5,000 lives in Delhi itself. I can say this because during oxygen langars I analysed that a lot of people died because of panic not because of shortage of oxygen or shortage of hospital beds.
Sputnik: What, according to you, should the state and federal governments now do to prepare for the third wave, which is anticipated to hit in September?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: The government might be preparing itself to fight the third wave in September but we are planning for August. The model of a 400-bed hospital at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj should be studied by the government. We didn't have anything on the ground on the day we announced the opening of the hospital but within 10 days we started a full-fledged hospital with all the facilities, ranging from oxygen cylinders to an ICU. It is evident that when the governments were lagging behind in providing medical help to citizens, Sikhs were at the forefront. I would like to say that the government must engage organisations like ours in fighting the pandemic.
Apart from this, the governments should take responsibility. A lot of reports are coming up that ventilators, procured by the central government, are not working but why didn't the state governments check them [in the first place]? When we receive anything, we thoroughly check it. We had received 100-volt oxygen concentrators and in two days only we got them converted into 220 volts because we had a sense of responsibility.
Therefore, the government must pull their socks up, otherwise our global image will be tarnished.
Sputnik: The Delhi Police have launched an investigation into people like Congress Youth President and BJP's Gautam Gambhir who are providing support in this crisis. Do you fear the same and what would you say?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: We are not doing anything of such sort for the first time or for any political benefit. Even the government has asked us to support them in several disasters. For example, we helped the government in evacuating people from Uttarakhand, in providing fresh food for around one million people in Jammu and Kashmir. We even helped the Nepali government during the earthquake in 2015. We are the only organisation in the country that is providing free dialysis to patients and have a dedicated 100-bed hospital for that. We provide CT scans and MRIs at the cheapest, 69 cents, at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. So, even the court knows that we work for humanity.
Sputnik: India is home to several religions, in such a scenario what message would you like to give to other religions?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: Guru Sahib said "Awal Allah noor upaya, Kudrat ke sab bandey, Ek noor se sab jag upja, Kaun bhaley, kaun mandey?" which means (God first created light then other creations were made, the whole world was born from that light so how can someone be good and someone be bad?). We shifted 12 people, all COVID-positive, from an old age home run by a temple. The temple authorities called several people but no one came forward to help them. As soon as we got to know about it, we sent our ambulances and brought them to our hospital. Two of them died while the condition of one patient is serious and he is admitted to the LNJP hospital. The health condition of others is stable now. So, I would like to make an appeal to all the other religions that they should come forward to extend support to humanity as people believe in religions.
Sputnik: Is there any appeal you would like to make to celebrities to support such initiatives?
Manjinder Singh Sirsa: Not only celebrities, but everyone who is capable of extending support should come forward as we have seen that this pandemic doesn't differentiate between rich or poor.