PUNJAB: Harjit Singh Sabharwal lost his architect wife to cancer 12 years ago. The bond the couple shared has taken Harjit Singh on a completely new path in life where he has found himself sharing the burden of those worse off than him. "I was into social service before. Amrit's death led me to give back to society what I got," he says.
Harjit was an engineer with an MNC. He became general secretary of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Sewa Society, which he formed in 1995 with the help of his friends. In 1997, they started a free ambulance service in Chandigarh for accident victims.
Then they started a free dialysis facility at the IMA Centre in Chandigarh's Sector 35 in 2004. At least 350 patients currently visit this facility daily for free dialysis.
A recipient of the prestigious Bhagat Puran Singh award in Punjab, Sabharwal says in 2014, his NGO became a not-for-profit outfit and went whole time into eye surgeries. February 8, 2018, marked a day of strange revelation to him.
"That day, I felt a divine intervention taking place deep within. I decided to start the Guru Ka Langar Eye Hospital. In the last four years, the hospital in Chandigarh's Sector 18 has conducted cataract and retina surgeries besides cornea transplants free of cost," says Harjit.
The hospital has received more than 6.25 lakh patients from across the country - as far as J&K, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. At least 800 patients are examined and treated daily. "We have 13 eye specialists who do 50 surgeries daily. While cataract costs Rs 4,000 per surgery, retina is for Rs 15,000 and cornea is Rs 25,000. However, we do it without charging anything. We also prescribe medicines, eye drops and spectacles free of cost."
The patients and their attendants are given free food in the 'langar' (community kitchen). Outstation patients are given lodging facilities free of cost in various gurdwaras and Infosys Sarai in PGI Chandigarh. Their travel expenses too are paid for. "Our mission is to help the needy people on the lines of the ideal Sarbat da bhala," says Harjit.
Then on August 13, 2020, the NGO started Tera Hi Tera Mission Hospital in Chandigarh’s Sector 45 where patients get free consultations on diabetes, orthopedics, depression, urology, and gynecology from PGIMER and Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32. The medicines are available at nominal rates.
On June 13 last year, the NGO opened its pharmacy in Sector 32 where generic and ethical medicines are available on a discount. "We have an inventory of 28,000 types of medicines with us. On a day, around 700 people buy medicines from our store at discounted rates," says Harjit.
The NGO last year started cancer detection bus tests for mammography, bone density and colposcopy and the patients are referred to various hospitals. "I have dedicated this facility totally to my wife. The bus travels within Chandigarh and on weekends, it also goes to other places," he says.