Kashmir’s Unsung Covid Warriors
We speak to five such unsung heroes
As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus, India now has the highest rate of growth in Covid-19 numbers. In this scenario, the health care system -- which itself is in an intensive care unit -- is expected to save lives. The situation is no different in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The frontline workers are taking the virus head-on, but only with their rigour, and without proper facilities. In these challenging times, many unsung Samaritans are going out of their way to help. We speak to five such unsung heroes.
Dildar Ahmad Shapo
Dildar Ahmad Shapo, a resident of Qazigund is leaving no stone unturned in helping the wheelchair-bound people amid this crisis. Shapo became wheelchair bound a few years ago, due to a car accident. He along with his friend Aijaz pools money from friends and family to help wheelchair-bound persons in their locality. The duo transfers the money to the bank accounts of people who need it the most.
Shapo says, “We do not run any organisation, this is done at the individual level.” Shapo made a group of wheelchair-bound people on Whatsapp. “From Whatsapp, we get to know the problems faced by such people,” adds Shapo. The lockdown came as an undesired hurdle for people with disabilities. Shapo has so far transferred cash to around 50 people who needed it the most. He says proudly, “We did not take even a single penny from the government.”
Wasim Ahmad Sofi
Chhatabal locality of Srinagar was declared a red zone at the beginning of this pandemic. Wasim Ahmad Sofi, a resident of Chattabal along with his friends decided to do something for the local society during this lockdown. He says, “We started pooling money and started getting sample medicines from various medical representatives.” The problems faced by the people due to the restrictions imposed motivated Sofi to distribute free medicines to the people. The current health emergency has completely diverted the attention from other health issues to COVID-19.
For funds, Sofi and his friends have placed a donation box at the place they distribute medicines. “Locals donate as per their wish,” he says. Sofi, who himself is a medical representative, is working with eight other men. From general health problems to chronic diseases such as Diabetes and Hypertension, Sofi has so far distributed medicines for these ailments to thousands of people in his area. Sofi says that a majority of beneficiaries are people belonging to deprived sections of society. “These people cannot afford expensive medicines,” Sofi says.
Aadil Karim Sheikh
Aadil Karim Sheikh, a resident of Anantnag in south Kashmir is associated with Sayed-Us- Sadaat Foundation. At the start of the pandemic, there was a huge shortage of masks and Private Protective Equipment (PPE) kits in the hospitals. Aadil Khan with the help of other members of the organisation supplied PPE kits to Doctors’ association of Kashmir and many health care centres in south Kashmir. “From the very first day,” he says, “We are supplying essential commodities.”
Sheikh, who runs a distribution business, says that seeing their initiative, local authorities provided curfew passes to six of their members. He further says, “They also allowed movement of my personal distribution vehicle.” Sheikh believes that the purpose behind this move is only the “safeguarding of humanity irrespective of religion.”
“We got information that there was a shortage of oxygen cylinders in the hospitals,” says Mudasir Dar, a student of the Islamic University of Science and Technology. Dar arranged oxygen cylinders from Khanmoh industrial area in Pampore. He then supplied those cylinders to nearby hospitals. Each cylinder cost Rs. 5000. Dar volunteers with a non-government organisation called Sajid Iqbal Foundation (SIF).
The initiative was sponsored by SIF. Apart from this, Dar also provided study material free of cost to the students of classes 9th to 12th. He says, “Students were struggling due to the slow speed of the internet.” Dar arranged books from Pulwama and supplied adequate notes and books to people who contacted him. For this, Dar arranged funds from his friends. While distributing food packets to needy people, Dar came across many students who were not able to study because of the lockdown and slow speed of the internet. This prompted him to take up this initiative.
Khurshid Ahmad Malik
Khurshid Ahmad Malik, a retired IAS officer, was severely injured in a car accident on the fateful day of March 19 1987, while coming back from Jammu to Srinagar. Since then, Malik has never looked back and has served the society in every possible way as he can. Malik is associated with the Voluntary Medicare Society (VMS) and has tirelessly worked for persons with disabilities, even during this lockdown.
Malik helped the disabled persons financially and also provided assistance equipment to them with the help of VMS. Malik arranges funds from his own pocket, friends and family to support such people. “The top priority for me,” Malik says, “is to help people with spinal cord injury.” Recently, Malik helped a man who is the father of two disabled children, in building a home in Pattan. The man was living for years without shelter with his family.
Cover Photo: BASIT ZARGAR