The Sikh Saviours of Delhi: Now Gurudwaras to Turn into Covid Care Centres as Capital Struggles to Cope


The Sikh Saviours of Delhi: Now Gurudwaras to Turn into Covid Care Centres as Capital Struggles to Cope

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

In Delhi, the coronavirus pandemic is taking a worrying turn. Infections continue to rise; the national capital now has 44,688 positive cases after 1,859 fresh cases were detected on Tuesday. As the number of cases rises, fear grows that Delhi’s healthcare infrastructure may not be equipped to handle the sudden influx of people needing hospital beds. There have been multiple reports of shortage of ventilator beds and even doctors. Now Delhi’s gurudwaras have stepped in to help – not for the first time during this pandemic – by offering to turn eight of its establishments into Covid care centres.

On Tuesday, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, promising to make the facilities available free of cost. The eight facilities would be able to provide an additional 850 beds. In a Hindustan Times report, Sirsa said, “We have requested the government for its sanction and support so that we can start offering these services immediately. We will take care of all meals, drinking water, general medicines, oxygen cylinders as well as haematological and biochemistry laboratory services for the admitted patients.”

Even as early as March, when India went into the first phase of its lockdown, which was originally meant to last 21 days, Delhi’s gurudwaras were a place of succour for stranded migrant workers at a time when state borders were closed to the migrants who wished to make their way home. Over 200 migrants from Punjab, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra found shelter at Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila gurudwara when the lockdown was in full effect, and Sirsa had requested the authorities to help in evacuating them to avoid a coronavirus outbreak.

Delhi’s Gurudwara Bangla Sahib had also opened up its kitchens and would prepare food for around 40,000 people who were left stranded in the city every day.

The pandemic had also spurred paranoia toward medical professionals. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff shared accounts of harassment from landlords and neighbours who felt threatened by the possibility that these medical workers were being exposed daily to Covid-19 patients. At the time, DSGMC president Sirsa announced that medical professionals could seek shelter and stay at the places of worship if they desired.

The Sikh belief in the notion of seva (service), finds expression in the practise of langar, where food is prepared and fed to the needy for no payment. Even in nations where there is a Sikh diaspora, the community has rallied to provide food to those who are in need as that country suffers from both the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests.

It is in hard times that the best aspects of humanity get a chance to shine brightest. And the Sikh community is showing the whole world how.