Capturing the sights and emotions at Pingalwara in Amritsar, Punjab, is no easy task. This is the home to homeless, destitute, orphans, physically and mentally-challenged persons.
The man behind the project, which actually began in Lahore, now in Punjab, Pakistan, is no longer around. Bhagat Puran Singh is known to many.
His first patient was one who could not walk and Puran Singh carries the child who was given the name Piara (The Affectionate One) Singh. He become so close to this child that he was very much part of Puran Singh inspiration.
In April 2017, Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan – the first Sikh to be made a defence minister in any nation in the world – had visited Pingalwara’c centre at Manawala, Amritsar.
There, he remarked: “Do not try and be great like me. Remember, you are already great — aim to be great like yourself.”
The centre is registered under the All India Pingalwara Charitable Society (Regd) Amritsar, which is today helmed by Dr Inderjit Kaur as its president.
Sukdarshen Singh, an active Malaysian social worker, had visited the Pingalwara centre in October. He shares his observation:
I spoke to the administrator in two locations. They have 33 acres of land at their biggest centre. It accomodates 850 patients, orphans, aged folks, etc.
In this centre, they have a gurdwara, school for orphans and those who cannot afford to pay fees for normal school. They offer boarding facilities. Within the same location they have a school dedicated for children with special needs and also a school for deaf.
The centre also has a complete solution to offer artificial limbs right to physio exercises to enable patients to be comfortable with these new limbs.
Finance comes from generous donors worldwide and Rp15 lakh from the Shiromani gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). They unfortunately have to pay Rp2 lakh of GST, which they trying to seek exemption. So far, not much success.
Some unscrupulous people have used the Pingalwara name to collect donations without any intention of giving to these centres. I saw them standing at toll booths. The Pingalwara have not authorised any person or group to collect on their behalf from the villages or road sides. They have stationed boxes at various places in front of their seven centres where donations can be made. They also enable direct banking facilities.
I spoke to most of the paid employees there. Each one of them have been working easily above five years. Some even over 12 years. The work they do is tough but each person I spoke to displayed commitment and love for their job.
They keep herd of cattle but still find the need to buy milk from outside. They grow most of their vegetables free from pesticide.
At the Pingalwara, they keep their own herd of cattle to provide milk. But they still need to buy milk from outside to feed 850 patients, children and aged souls accommodated in this largest centre. They also grow most of their vegetables free from pesticide.
They offer free prothesis arms and legs for those without limbs and cannot afford them.
Pingglewara keeps their treatment statistics. From here, we can appreciate the range of illness they treat for free (see photo).
During this visit – on 6 Nov 2017 – the record of patients at the Bhagat Puran Singh Prosthetic Centre record of patients showed that it had assessed 10,358 patients. The breakdown for patients for fitment were 7,888 males and 1,860 females. On number of aids and appliances fitted, the numbers displayed were 3,654 for prosthesis and 2,876 for ortosis. One hundred and thirty six cases were fabrication at that point of time.
I took photos of some of the patients. After a while I realised they were just too many. I decided to offer a touch, a hug or a smile instead. Best decision I made.
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