- The first oxygen refilling centre was set-up in Greater Noida
- Mr Sardana and his team have helped around 400 people with oxygen
- Mr Sardana and the team addressed the demand for oxygen 24x7
New Delhi: It’s July 6, India reported 34,703 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest in almost four months. The COVID numbers reflect that the second wave of the pandemic which peaked in May in the country is following a downward trajectory. But there is still a demand for medical essentials like oxygen cylinders, says Commander (retired) Rajiv Sardana who at 5 in the evening delivered two oxygen cylinders to a COVID patient in Delhi’s Janakpuri area. Mr Sardana, along with his family and friends has been helping COVID patients by providing life-saving oxygen since April this year for free.
NDTV spoke to 50-year-old Mr Sardana, who is retired from the Indian Navy about his initiative. Sharing the idea behind starting ‘oxygen sewa’, Mr Sardana said,
We all were reading and watching news of people scrambling for hospital beds, oxygen and medicines. It hit me really when a close friend tested positive for COVID-19 and he was given oxygen in an ambulance while we waited to get a bed. After spending hours with my friend and seeing people struggle for something as basic oxygen, I decided to step out. At first, my family was against it, my mother said, ‘sab duniya ghar pe bethi aur tum log bahar sadak pe ghoom rahe ho’ (the world is sitting inside their homes and you people are roaming around). I explained to them the on-ground situation and said, either you can help me or sit at home, the choice is yours.
Mr Sardana along with the help of his wife Archana and younger son Ayush converted his Maruti Omni van into a small oxygen tanker carrying three jumbo cylinders each with a capacity of 7,000 litres and close to 20 small cylinders, and started helping people across the national capital. While the trio works on the ground, Mr Sardana’s elder son handles calls while sitting in Sydney.
Explaining how the trio managed to procure and distribute oxygen cylinders when everyone was struggling for it, Mr Sardana said he found a dealer in Faridabad and had to purchase oxygen in black. Further talking about their background that helped in the distribution drive, Mr Sardana said,
The four of us are trained scuba divers and my wife is a scuba instructor, so we are used to handling cylinders. Having said that, I know, for scuba diving, we have air cylinders but that gave us some knowledge about the usage of oxygen cylinders.
Soon, they established a refilling point in Greater Noida to help those who had an empty cylinder and could come themselves for getting it refilled. Over time, to reach a large population across Delhi-NCR, various oxygen centres were set-up in collaboration with local shops and also partnered with auto-rickshaw and cab drivers to transport the cylinders.
I can’t be present at all locations, so I had to join hands with people. So, we partnered with say an AC repair shop in Ramesh Nagar in Delhi. At their shop, they agreed to let us start the refilling facility. Some extended the helping hand for free while I had to pay some auto-rickshaw drivers for transportation, said Mr Sardana.
Since the first week of April, Sardanas along with the help of their friends and locals reached to around 400 people with cylinders for free. Mr Sardana said, the number could be more as they didn’t really keep a record initially.
Sharing the reason behind providing oxygen cylinder and refilling service for free, Mr Sardana said,
Some people were taking others in need for a ride; people were getting ripped off and that’s when we thought that we will procure and provide oxygen for free. I did feel overwhelmed at one time because I was getting close to 150 calls a day and night but somehow, we managed. Now, most of the refilling/pick-up centres are inactive as the demand for the oxygen has reduced. We are still refilling for free but for people who can afford to purchase a cylinder, we request them to buy. In case of any oxygen cylinder requirement, people can call me at 8802049992.
Mr Sardana is now starting an NGO called Oxygen Sewa Foundation and his friend has built a mobile application for him which will have a database of all oxygen centres in the national capital. Mr Sardana believes that the app will come in handy if and when the third wave arrives.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.