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Muslim groups lead efforts in fighting COVID-19 lockdown crisis in BJP-ruled Gujarat

Babubhai (extreme right, with crutches) distributing ration kits to the differently-abled

Amid the ongoing nationwide battle against COVID-19 and the crisis created by the lockdown, Muslim groups in communally sensitive Gujarat have lent a helping hand to the administration, and aided scores, MAHESH TRIVEDI reports.

Mahesh Trivedi for TwoCircles.net

GUJARAT: As the coronavirus cases in BJP-ruled Gujarat spiralled to 3,548 and killed 162 people by April 29, the Muslim community of the state and voluntary organizations run by them have been silently lending a helping hand to the beleaguered state administration in fighting the deadly virus.

Muslims constitute 10 per cent of the population in this communally sensitive western Indian state. In spite of being a hard-pressed minority and having faced an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002, the community has brushed aside its sorry state and in current pandemic has worked to bring relief to poor people of the state.

In Ahmedabad, a voluntary organization Vikalang Sahayak Kendra run by differently-abled Ghulam Murtaza (Babubhai) has not only distributed nearly 500 kits containing rice, sugar, wheat flour, edible oil, etc to widows, slum-dwellers and physically-challenged men and women but also has been providing meals once a day to homeless, besides guiding them on personal hygiene during the pandemic.

“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,” Babubhai told TwoCircles.net.      

Medical check-up in a BMDA medical van

Other Muslims organizations like School of Education Campus, Chhipa Samast Jamaat, Anjuman-e-Saifee Jamaat, Qaswa Charitable Trust (Bhuj), etc have distributed hundreds of food and grains packets to needy in the ongoing lockdown.

At one of India’s largest Muslim ghetto on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in Juhapura, housing nearly 400,000 people, Muslim youth belonging to Ahmed Shah Army, an NGO took it upon themselves to sanitizing 30,000-odd houses.

Besides sanitizing the houses, the Muslim youth did not hesitate in providing free hair cuts to beggars – at least 180 of them, who had been lodged in a hostel by local authorities in Valsad in south Gujarat. The Muslim youth from the NGO also handed over two pairs of clothes to the beggar community.

Zuber Gopalani (extreme left) and BMDA members gifting PPE kits to a municipal doctor

In Vadodara, the citizens remember a benevolent Muslim auto driver Ali Hussain Udawala, who has been ferrying passengers to hospital during the lockdown without charging any fare.

Riddhi Soni, a 28-year-old visually-challenged college teacher at Rajpipla in south Gujarat, lives alone in the staff quarters and could not go back to her parents in Ahmedabad because of the shutdown. It was her neighbour and colleague Numa Ansari (26) who has come to her aid in the current lockdown.

Soni told TwoCircles.net that Ansari has always remained at her beck and call, sanitized her room, bought essentials for her, and took care of her.

With the shortage of isolation units in municipal-run hospitals in Ahmedabad to house the increasing number of suspected cases of COVID-19, Issa Foundation, which has already been running community kitchens, offered its three buildings as quarantine facilities with 1,200 beds and also offered to bear food expenses of patients and medicos.

In Baroda, where the services provided by the 300-member Baroda Muslim Doctors’ Association (BMDA), headed by chairperson Dr Muhammed Husain is earning them laurels.

BMDA chief Muhammed Husain prescribing medicines to a senior citizen

Ever since the government enforced the lockdown, BMDA has organized free medical camps, launched blood donation campaigns, and joined hands with the Vadodara municipal corporation in preventive and curative interventions to boost its anti-virus drive.

Husain told TwoCircles.net that 150 dedicated doctors of the association have been risking their lives by conducting door-to-door surveillance in COVID-hit areas declared as ‘danger zones’ in the cultural city.

Ever since BMDA was set up in 2012, the association, besides organizing events for medicos, has also been carrying out a number of social activities for the underprivileged to bring the marginalized into the mainstream.

BMDA has done this by promoting academic scholars, helping high-school drop-outs to join skill-based learning, starting reading rooms in slums and semi slums, free malnutrition check-ups and so on.

According to Zuber Gopalani, famed social activist and educationist, BMDA’s biggest achievement came recently when an expert group from the federal government lauded the invaluable services rendered by the doctors and paramedics of the association at an ideal COVID-care centre at the Ebrahim Bawany ITI Hostel in Vadodara.

“BMDA medicos threw their full heart and soul into this COVID care centre while working with the civic body’s health team, regularly examining the patients’ blood sugar, blood pressure, temperature, etc and monitored their hygiene and sanitation. The result was that for the first time in India as many as 45 COVID-19 patients were completely cured within 10 days and discharged together from one single care centre”, Gopalani said.