32-year-old, Shahnawaz Shaikh, a Mumbai resident runs a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) named the ‘Unity & Dignity Foundation’ which has been working to ensure the availability of oxygen cylinders to patients who have contracted the Coronavirus and are undergoing home quarantine. His initiative comes at a critical juncture, as there is an alarming shortage of medical oxygen in the country’s financial capital, with its overburdened medical establishments succumbing to the mounting pressure.
Speaking about the initiative Shaikh said, “We are experiencing significant challenges in procuring oxygen cylinders. We have approached numerous of Oxygen plants around the city with the request that they supply cylinders to us. We have apprised them that we were providing oxygen cylinders to COVID-19 patients who have been unable to get a bed in a hospital.” Shaikh explained that he had decided to supply oxygen cylinders following the death of his friend’s pregnant sister as a result of sufficient oxygen supply.
Last year he had sold his Rupees 22 lakh Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) to start an oxygen supply initiative. “I was initially facing a lot of challenges raising the necessary funds as the cost of oxygen cylinders was tremendously high. I have to pay 9000 rupees for small cylinders and 15000 rupees for the larger ones. Since we had issues to fund the project, I decided to sell my vehicle as it is my belief that saving lives is far more important than owning the vehicle at the moment.” Shaikh has since become a Social Media sensation and has been dubbed as the ‘Oxygen Man of Mumbai. His NGO has been reported to touched over 4000-5000 people lives since the start of his initiative.
The scourge of the Coronavirus second wave in Mumbai has brought to the fore the major demand for medical oxygen. Just three months ago Shaikh said he was answering 50 odd calls a day for the supply of medical oxygen however his NGO presently receives around 500-600 calls daily. “We are trying to get as much oxygen supply as possible. Our Focus is to get oxygen cylinders to people who are home quarantined but need oxygen supply. We want to save them the trouble of getting hospitalized,” He said. Patients usually deliver empty cylinders to the NGO’s control room.
Mumbai’s Oxygen man is not the only such “Corona Warrior,” Gaurav Rai from Patna too has saved over 950 lives by facilitating the availability of oxygen cylinders. Rai has been said to personally deliver oxygen cylinders and installs them for patients undergoing home quarantine.