New Delhi: Be it food or shelter, the gurdwaras in Delhi are stepping up assistance to bolster India’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Gurdwaras across the national capital have opened their doors to hospital staff tending to the coronavirus patients, while also preparing food for thousands of people left stranded by the 21-day lockdown.
District authorities in New Delhi, where the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is located, told ThePrint that the shrine has been arranging meals for up to 10,000 people daily in areas where the Delhi government had requested its assistance.
“The food prepared at the Bangla Sahib gurdwara is sent to Vasant Vihar, Chanakyapuri and Delhi Cantonment,” said Rakesh Dahiya, Sub-Divisional Magistrate of New Delhi district. “Food preparations began here on the day the lockdown came into effect, i.e. 25 March. Everyday, 10,000 people are being fed with the food made here.”
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), which manages all gurdwaras in Delhi, announced in a video message on WhatsApp that nurses and doctors tending to Covid-19 patients could seek shelter at the shrines.
“We are offering shelter and food to doctors and nurses from RML hospital in Gurdwara Bangla Sahib and staff from AIIMS in Motibagh gurdwara,” DSGMC president Manjinder Singh Sirsa said in the widely-circulated clip, adding all those in need would be provided with food and ration items.
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The gurdwaras’ offer of free shelter came amid reports that some hospital staff in different parts of the country were facing harassment at the hands of landlords and neighbours.
Four nurses working in the Covid-19 ward of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital are now living at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, less than two kilometres away, to keep their families safe.
“We stay among the most dangerously ill patients throughout the day,” one of the nurses told ThePrint. “We don’t want to go back to our families and expose them to the risk that we are facing.”
Another nurse said an added advantage was the easy commute, given that the lockdown has taken much of the public transport off the roads.
Ikbal Singh, the accommodation in-charge of the gurdwara, said the premises were open to staff from the hospital. “So far, only four members have come to stay. We are ensuring that they are provided with all the required facilities.”
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib has also opened up its rooms to staff from Lady Hardinge Hospital, which is located just over 2 km away. Jagpreet Singh, who handles accommodation facilities at the shrine, said five rooms have been kept ready for possible guests.
“We have cleared the first floor of the niwas (accommodation) for the staff treating Covid-19 patients at Lady Hardinge Hospital. Additionally, other doctors and nurses choosing to stay here will be allotted rooms on the third floor,” he added.
Dr Sunil Duchania of Lady Hardinge Hospital said they had informed staff about the gurdwara’s offer of free accommodation, adding one staffer had availed of it so far. “As and when the staff needs facilities for stay, they will come forward and use the rooms provided by the gurdwara,” he added.
Devendra Singh, the niwas in-charge at Motibagh gurdwara said the staff from Safdarjung Hospital, around 6 km away, could live on the premises. A total of 30 rooms, he said, had been cleaned and set aside for hospital staff. Singh added that the gurdwara had also assigned two helpers to ensure the staff has a comfortable stay.
Trouble in Majnu Ka Tila gurdwara
Meanwhile, the authorities at the Majnu ka Tila gurdwara, where 205 migrants have taken shelter, are on edge in light of the Tablighi Jamaat episode.
The Tablighi Jamaat, an international non-political Muslim organisation, has come under the scanner for allegedly aiding the propagation of Covid-19 infection by violating social-distancing guidelines.
The Majnu Ka Tila gurdwara opened its door to over 200 migrants from Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra on 24 March after the Delhi government sealed all borders and restricted their march home.
According to DSGMC president Sirsa, some of these people are “coughing and have a fever”, and he has requested the Delhi and Punjab governments to help these migrants find shelter.
“Out of those staying here, some are coughing and have a fever. It is my request to Captain Amarinder Singh (and Arvind Kejriwal) that these people be taken out of here… Please take action before this becomes another case of transmission,” he is heard saying in the video.
Amandeep Sharma of NGO All India Human Rights Council, who has been helping the gurdwara authorities, said all the workers living inside “are now being screened by a team of doctors”.
“Anyone found with symptoms will be quarantined. For now, they are being taken to a school in Nehru Vihar in batches of 15,” he added.
He said no official plan of action had been devised by either of the state governments so far. The SDM of the area was present on the premises but remained unavailable for a comment.
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