May 8, 2021 12:21:01 am
Corporate executive Simranjeet Singh’s phone has not stopped ringing since April. The calls, though, are not from his bosses or colleagues from his day job but desperate pleas from rank strangers seeking an oxygen cylinder for friends and relatives battling Covid-19 at various hospitals, isolation facilities, and homes in the city.
Simranjeet, 27, is one among several volunteers associated with various non-profits across Mumbai helping citizens in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic, the intensity of which has taken everyone by surprise this year.
Simranjeet is associated with the Hemkunt foundation, supplying oxygen to people free-of-cost in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. It opened its latest centre at Sher-E-Punjab Gurdwara in Andheri (east). Singh, who leads a team of 20 volunteers, says, “Starting this April, we have managed to help 1,200 people in Mumbai and nearby districts. We could not provide oxygen to around 300 callers but gave them contacts of other places where they could find it.”
According to government data, Maharashtra requires 1650 MT liquid oxygen every day. In Mumbai, the daily requirement is between 225 and 245 MT. Currently, the state is able to manufacture only 1,250 MT on its own and has to rely on neighbouring states to fulfil its needs, which is not always sufficient. In such a scenario, Hemkunt Foundation and other NGOs help fill a crucial gap. Relying exclusively on donations, they provide oxygen to the needy for free.
Arshad Siddiqui, 60, chairman of non-profit Red Crescent Society of India, told Indian Express, “We bought 5,000 oxygen cylinders in April and supplied it to people in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Palghar. We did this work by tying up with 40 other NGOs. The requirement of oxygen is still high and we receive many calls from people. In my opinion, it will take months for this requirement to end in our state. We have 40 to 50 centres across these districts and people in need of help can find us on social media.” Dr Azeemuddin Sayyed, general secretary of the organization, says, “Due to the oxygen we provide in time, the patient can often be treated at home and does not require hospitalisation.”
With the pandemic situation improving in Mumbai in May, the oxygen demand has gone down a little but not enough for the volunteers to step back. The state government has also requested the Centre to provide it with 200 MT oxygen. In addition, it has issued a global tender for 25,000 MT oxygen and 40,000 oxygen cylinders.
Jagjot Singh, 24, another corporate executive working for Hemkunt, says, “The situation is much better than April but it’s still not over.”
Simranjeet says the number of calls the foundation receives has gone down from 200 calls in April to a little over a 100 in May.
On the foundation’s Andheri centre, Jagjot says it will cater to patients in the initial stages of the infection. “They can stay here for 12 hours until they find a hospital. We have arranged chairs and a few beds.”
Jagjot clarifies that the centre is not for Covid treatment but only to provide oxygen. “We want to start a centre in Navi Mumbai but it all depend on what response we get in Andheri,” he says.
Bilal Pathan, 21, a Vikhroli resident associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind non-profit, is busy supplying oxygen to local people in Park Site, Vikhroli (W), along with a few friends. “We got money for Zakaat (charity) during Ramzan and used it to supply oxygen to local residents. We have six oxygen cylinders and have provided it, in turns, to 21 people since April. We refill the 13-litre cylinder at a cost of Rs 300 at a refill centre in Ghatkopar. Looking at the demand, we are trying to procure 20 more cylinders but we do not have the funds for it. This is why we are confined to helping only the residents of Vikhroli.”
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