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Ghulam Murtaza and his dedicated volunteers

Vikalang Sahayak Kendra’s president Ghulam Murtaza (centre, with crutches) and his dedicated volunteers

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As Covid cases rise in BJP-ruled Gujarat, Muslim-led NGOs show the way


Ahmedabad: Even as the total number of positive cases of the killer coronavirus disease (covid-19) is threatening to zoom past the 2.6-lakh mark in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat with the death roll hovering around 4,500, Muslim-led selfess organisations have continued to help the truly needy, irrespective of the caste, creed or religion of the beneficiaries.

The hard-pressed minority community, which has been reduced to second-class citizens in the communally-sensitive western Indian state after the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, has brushed aside its sorry plight and has been firing on all cylinders to mitigate the sufferings of the penniless people and patients living on a wing and a prayer.

The sterling yeoman's service rendered silently by volunteers of the Shaheen Foundation, the Baroda Muslim Doctors' Association (BMDA), the Tandalja Darul Uloom, the Vikalang Sahay Kendra and many other bleeding-heart Muslim do-gooders during the ongoing pandemic has left everyone dumbstruck in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state where the six-million-odd Muslims are looked down upon by hatemongers among Hindus.

Despite being a unique education centre standing by brilliant but underprivileged children, Shaheen Foundation rises to the occasion to bring smiles on the faces of pandemic-hit citizens. With life-saving oxygen cylinders in demand in corona times, its founder-trustee Hameed Memon wasted no time in launching a helpline to offer these medical devices free of cost to the poor who cannot afford to rent them.

Memon's 60-odd dedicated Good Samaritans and candy stripers comprising charitable doctors, teachers, students, businessmen, executives, social workers and even humble rickshaw-drivers delivered the cylinders at patients' homes without charging anything for the refill, and have been providing succour to the hard-up citizens through several other humanitarian activities.

Now organising blood donation camps, now handing food packets and fruit baskets to the poor, Shaheen Foundation's corona warriors have been lending a helping hand to the beleaguered state administration in fighting the deadly disease by offering doses of an immunity-boosting roborant, sanitising hundreds of homes, vehicles, police stations and places of worship, and gifting cell phones to poverty-stricken bright sparks for online education.

According to Memon, the eager-beaver aid givers did door-to-door distribution of 3,100 ration kits, sanitised some 400 vehicles and properties and arranged for blood in a jiffy to save 35 lives so far. No wonder, the Foundation felicitated these benefactors with special Khidmat-e-Khalq awards.

Shaheen Foundation's corona warriors being felicitated by founder-trustee Hamid Memon (second from left)

The best-in-class service during the corona carnage is being rendered by BMDA, Vadodara-based 300-member doctors' group, which has joined hands with the civic body in preventive and curative interventions to boost its anti-virus drive by doing its damnedest for soothing people's frazzled nerves.

Besides organising free medical camps and launching blood donation campaigns, BMDA, headed by HIV specialist Dr Muhammed Husain, has set up four well-equipped covid care centres in Gujarat's cultural capital with its doctors regularly examining the patients' blood sugar, blood pressure, temperature, etc. and monitoring their hygiene and sanitation, all free of cost.

Vadodara is the only city in Gujarat with 200 plasma donors available with BMDA whose 150 dedicated doctors have also been risking their lives by conducting home-to-home surveillance and awareness campaigns in covid-hit localities.

Thanks to the self-effacing educationist-social activist Zuber Gopalani, who coordinates between BMDA and the municipal corporation, the association has formed a special group of 12 benevolent Muslim men who ensure that the last rites of covid victims are performed in a dignified manner. The grief-stricken relatives of covid victims often stay away from bodies due to restrictions but Husain's colleagues make sure they are carried by BMDA's 12 ambulances to graveyards or crematoriums for a solemn farewell.

At a time when most of the educational institutions refused to oblige the civic body by housing covid patients on their empty, spacious premises, Mufti Aarif Hakim Falahi, principal and managing trustee of the Darul Uloom at Tandalja in Vadodara, did not think twice before turning the hallowed house of knowledge into a 198-bed covid care centre.

Most of the 45 serious Level-3 patients recuperating at the boundless Islamic seminary were Hindus, including ailing doctors and nurses, all of whom were regularly being given springfresh fruits, dry fruits, milk, biscuits, etc. what with a fridge also being kept at their disposal, thanks also to public-spirited advocate Ashfaq Malek whose zealous volunteers not only offered their services for five months but also recently donated blood at camps organised by Zulfiqar Young Circle and Al-Rahman Group.

Ahmedabad's Vikalang Sahayak Kendra, a voluntary organisation headed by differently-abled Ghulam Murtaza (Babubhai) not only gifted some 1,200 ration kits containing rice, sugar, wheat flour, edible oil, etc to widows, slum-dwellers and physically-challenged men and women but also provided meals once daily to 500 homeless and the handicapped, besides guiding them on personal hygiene and distributing masks during the pandemic.

Only last week, as the local administration sent an SOS that blood banks had run dry, Babubhai's NGO, in association with some other like-minded donors and humanitarians, collected as many as 550 bottles of blood within a few hours, and have been providing tricycles and self-employment tools to the disabled men and women who have been rendered jobless by the corona carnage.

Babubhai, who runs around for the needy with his crutches, admitted that it won't be possible to give succour to the have-nots without financial assistance from generous donors from both Hindu and Muslim communities like Shankar Patel, Talha Sareshwala, Hanif Memon, Mohsin Memon, Akhtar Malik, Raju Patel, Ankur Patel, Ankit Patel, etc.

Under the guidance of former Ahmedabad Congress councillor Iqbal Shaikh, his 30-odd spirited acolytes from Ekta Sports Club and Dekkhani Sunni Muslim Jamaat not only cooked and gave away meals to some 2,000 starving souls but also saw to it that the ration quotas gifted by the government reached the right, deserving people, besides helping the authorities earlier in ensuring a happy journey for hundreds of migrants.

Ahmedabad's benevolent businessman Mohammed Sharif Kakuwala has made sure that those who die of coronavirus infection are given a respectable burial. Finding that the body taken to a burial ground was lowered up to two feet only and then literally dumped into the special 10-feet pit used for covid victims, he dreamed up a durable stretcher with six 15-feet-long straps so that the deceased person is placed at the bottom of the grave with dignity.

Kakuwala, who runs a popular snacks chain in the city, has spent a fortune to ready some 110 such new-fangled stretchers that can carry bodies weighing up to 200 kg, and gifted them to local cemeteries.

More power to their elbow!

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