Minority miracle frontline workers leading battle against Coronavirus in Maharashtra

Concerned citizens have started a coordinated effort to ensure oxygen supply to patients and requested government backing for their initiative


At a time when governments are requesting the Centre to provide oxygen supply to their respective states, Mumbai’s residents have taken it upon themselves to alleviate the pain of their fellow citizens. Micro-level efforts that received humble coverage during the 2020 pandemic restarted their services to provide oxygen cylinders to patients.

One such effort is by the people of Phoolgalli masjid in Mumbai’s Bhindi Bazaar who have been distributing oxygen cylinders to patients who are yet to be admitted in hospitals. According to a member worker speaking to ABP media channel, the initiative was started last year when the community noticed that even non-Covid patients were struggling to access hospitals. In an effort to provide temporary relief at home, the group started distributing the cylinders for free.

During the second wave, restarted the service of providing patients with an oxygen cylinder kit. If the concerned party knows how to operate the kit, the group merely transports the supply, otherwise volunteers reach the patient’s house and set-up the paraphernalia.

“We install and provide the whole kit, nozzle, pipe everything, free of cost so that patients get some relief,” one member told ABP.

However, despite addressing successive distress calls from people, even at night, the group is still waiting for government support. Members said the government should help such micro-level efforts by citizens to alleviate people’s pain. Although, they are yet to receive any help in kind, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray recently thanked the Muslim community for their continued support during the health crisis.

Many regions opened numerous masjids and madrasas to be used as isolation centres. Thackeray also appreciated the number of people who donated their blood to help with plasma therapies. Even during Ramzan fastings, Muslims distributed food, ration and water among workers who had once again resolved to return to their villages in light of the second wave of Covid-19.

Zakat – mandatory charity – is one of the five main pillars of Islam, wherein all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth must provide 2.5 percent of their resource to needy sections of society. On the call of the government, Muslims provided both Sadaqah – voluntary charity – as well as zakat as funds amounting to a sum or Rs. 60 lakh. Some of this money was recently used to prepare 10 ICU beds at Indira Gandhi hospital.

Another individual-level service that started by Mumbai’s Shahnawaz Sheikh also known as the ‘Oxygen Man’ received much media-coverage last year. The 31-year-old has been working since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 after his friend’s wife passed away due to lack of oxygen in an auto-rickshaw. Sheikh has created a ‘control room’ to streamline all the distress calls and community efforts to provide oxygen available to patients.

His endeavour began after he sold his car worth Rs. 22 lakh to raise money to buy oxygen cylinders. At the time, he procured 160 such cylinders. During the second-wave, the demand for oxygen has grown exponentially. Where once Sheikh received about 50 calls for oxygen cylinders, he nowadays received 500-600 calls every day only for the cylinders. So far, he has provided around 4,000 patients with these cylinders that he also retrieves once emptied.

Meanwhile, LiveMint reported the arrival of the first Oxygen Express carrying seven tankers from Visakhapatnam on April 24. The new stock will bring some relief to the state, reeling under a surge in coronavirus cases and shortages of medical oxygen.


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