Indian American doctor is the center of ‘Pind California’ at Tikri border


An Indian American doctor from New Jersey has decided to extend his stay in Punjab, India, to help those in dire need.

Dr. Swaiman Singh, 34, a cardiologist in New Jersey, flew to India last December for a short family visit. However, he has been busy helping people for more than six months now. The course of his life changed when he received distress calls from relatives in his native village, Pakhoke, in the western state of Punjab.

The villagers told him that a close family friend had died after a massive heart attack at Tikri outside New Delhi, one of three main sites where thousands of Indian farmers have been protesting since November.

Singh was told by the villagers that a family friend died because there was no doctor available to treat him at the Tikri protest site.

“I thought I will come down to see what help I could offer, maybe arrange some doctors at the site and leave,” Singh, who had also volunteered at the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, told news reports.

“But when I saw the condition of the elderly farmers, my heart just wouldn’t allow me to leave.”

The doctor says he started alone, “bought a small table, a few chairs and medications and started a small camp. The second day, I was joined by another person and then another, till slowly we grew into a full-sized community with a hospital, library and makeshift houses,” he told news reports.

Realizing “that this might be a long fight”, he left his fellowship program at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center midway to support the farmers’ agitation.

“For the past six months, we have been providing free medicines and all kinds of medical help to farmers, including COVID testing. We have also started a night shelter, a movie theatre and a library,” he said.

Singh and his colleagues call their camp Pind California – “pind” meaning village in the Punjabi language – due to the community it has grown to become. More than 1,100 makeshift tents pepper the sprawling site like confetti, offering free food, milk and water filtration plants.

“We have done whatever we possibly could in the COVID fight, including dispelling rumors, pushing people to get vaccinated and urging them to follow COVID protocols.”

The cardiologist is also the founder and president of the NGO, 5 Rivers Heart Association, which operates in the US, India and Ghana. He has leveraged his network to mobilize nearly 100 doctors to be posted at the protest sites on a rotational basis.

Singh has left behind his wife and three-year-old daughter in the US. He says his family life has taken a back seat “because we’re fighting for a greater cause”.

Singh moved to the US with his family at the age of 10. As a child, he saw his father, who was also a farmer, and his grandmother suffers in Punjab because of a lack of good healthcare. That motivated him to opt for the medical profession and dedicate his life to serving others, he says.

Singh’s goodwill has seen individual donors coming forward to donate generously from across the globe. Some of the fundraisings is undertaken through social media sites while the rest is taken care of by the association.

Despite the hardships, Singh remains optimistic and has no regrets about putting his life in the US on hold.