New Delhi: The deadly claws of coronavirus have engulfed millions of lives. However, the fact that loved ones don’t even get a chance to bid farewell to the deceased properly is even more heart-breaking and scary. As conducting funerals of loved ones who succumbed to the virus became a difficult task for families, Jitender Singh Shunty came forward like a ray of hope.
Since 21 March, Shunty and his independent organisation, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal (SBSSD), have been working round-the-clock to help Covid-19 victims and their family members. The former BJP MLA from Shahdara has stepped up at a time when even family members are scared to help the virus-infected patients.
Shunty and his team have performed the funeral of over 500 victims who lost their lives due to Covid-19. Shunty and SBSSD also ferried over 640 patients from isolation centers to their homes and vice-versa.
“DM of Shahdara, Sanjeev Kumar asked me to help since they were making an isolation centre near Mandoli Jail. Initially, we started off with organising langars and then when more people started reaching out to us, we expanded. We started making travel arrangements, we distributed food packets during the lockdown. We had distributed over 40,000 food kits. When asked to help them in ferrying Covid patients, many of my friends warned and said that it’s risky. But I was determined. I have been serving the people for the last 25 years; how can I stop now?” Shunty told The Sunday Guardian.
Slowly, he was flooded with calls, emails, and messages asking him for help. The 58-year-old social worker risked his own life to help the people in need. In July this year, Shunty, his wife and two sons contracted the virus.
However, this motivated them to help more people. “We haven’t taken any funds either from the Delhi government or from the Central government. We manage everything on our own,” he said.
“When a person tests Covid positive, we also sanitise his/her home as well as provide essential commodities to them. Our main job is to ferry Covid patients, cremate the dead bodies, etc. We are 21 warriors and volunteers. Initially, our drivers were worried and scared. So, I used to drive,” he added.
Asked about his political aspirations, Shunty told TSG: “I don’t like politics. I only want to serve the people.”
Earlier this month, Arif Khan, one of the ambulance drivers with SBSSD, lost his life due to coronavirus. He had ferried over 200 Covid patients and bodies for the last rites.
Shunty is also helping families who are being “harassed” by the private hospitals. “The private hospitals of Delhi are fleecing the people facing crisis. They don’t give the dead bodies unless Rs 5-10 lakh is paid to them. I help families and bring the dead bodies. I have so far saved families from paying over Rs 2.5 crore. These hospitals are charging over Rs 15 lakh for a disease that has no cure yet. A PPE kit costs Rs 400, but Max Hospital is charging Rs 6,000. How can you charge more than MRP? Similar instances have happened in Metro Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, BLK Hospital, St. Stephen Hospital, Saroj Hospital, etc. I went to these hospitals and resolved people’s issues,” he said.
Shunty is also the ‘First Sikh in the world to donate blood 100 times’. He has been awarded the title of ‘Donor Singh’ RED & White Bravery Award-2000 (Social Service). He got many more awards.
“We take all precautions in every vehicle. Despite all these precautions, we were still Covid positive. I know I can contract the virus again. But I cannot keep aside our mission to serve the people,” he said.