Food packets being distributed in Puducherry outside the Rajiv Gandhi Government Women and Children’s Hospital
|Volunteers prepare food in the kitchen of the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in New Delhi|
IRCTC staff preparing food for people in need during covid 19 lock down
e three-week long countrywide lock down to contain the covid 19 virus pandemic was announced by the Prime Minister on 24th of March 2020, without any prior notice. While the lockdown is a necessary step in fighting the virus, the lack of adequate preparation and communication by the authorities has led to many tragic consequences.
Many daily wage earners, to which category the majority of urban workers belong, became jobless during the lock down. They were deprived of their daily income. The lockdown has pushed millions of such vulnerable poor people into desperate conditions.
In this difficult situation, many citizens and people’s organisation have come forward to offer assistance to the people in need. From Kashmir to Kerala, hundreds of initiatives have been taken. We are listing a few of them below We are aware that there are tens of thousands of other similar initiatives all over the country, through which the people of our country are affirming their unity and solidarity in the conditions of the present crisis.
The purpose in highlighting these people’s initiatives is not to suggest that they can replace the role of the State, headed by the Government of India. While it is the state that has the primary responsibility of ensuring that the needs of all sections of our people are addressed, particularly in this critical period, these initiatives are a heartwarming expression of the solidarity of our people and our willingness to go all out to help our fellow countrymen in distress. They also point to what is absent in the states response to the plight of the people. It is the duty of the state to defend these initiatives, to learn from them, and to take immediate measures to overcome the difficulties being faced by different sections of the people.
J&K: A citizens’ group has been formed in Kathua district, J&K called ‘United Kathua’. ‘United Kathua’ team has around 300 volunteers and it is providing free home delivery of essential items ordered by households, medical assistance and also food to those in need at their door step, free of cost.
Delhi: Although the doors of the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara are closed for devotees and the langar is also closed, food is being prepared in the kitchen of the langar, which is being transported to the homeless in Delhi. One group is providing nursing and attendant care as well as counseling services for senior citizens. The Gurudwara authorities have also offered a list of their mental health experts who can be contacted if senior citizens experience anxiety issues due to the lock down.
Rickshaw-pullers operating inside the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi campus, who earlier used to earn Rs.500-600 per day earlier, are now able to earn only Rs 20-Rs 30 per day owing to the discontinuation of classes. Some students of IIT Delhi took it upon themselves to provide financial assistance to the rickshaw pullers. They are using social media platforms to crowd-source money for them and alleviate their suffering.
In the congested gullies of Sangam Vihar, home to lakhs of working people, a group of youth have come together to provide assistance to people who have lost their livelihood because of the lockdown. They convinced such working people that they must not panic, not feel desperate that they had to fend for themselves. They explained to people that they must observe the lockdown and remain in Delhi. These youth have been collecting monies from families in their colonies and organizing food and rations for those who have lost their jobs.
In Madanpur Khadar resettlement colony, groups of youths have organised to make sure that shopkeepers do not blackmarket essential items, and do not overcharge customers. They have carried out public naming and shaming of such errant shop keepers, who have been thus forced to mend their ways.
In slum colonies of Okhla in South East Delhi, including Indira Camp, Sanjay Colony, New Sanjay Camp etc, youth have identified those living in their colonies who are in dire need of assistance, because they were living on daily wages, and have now lost their source of livelihood. The youth are telling the house owners, who are themselves working people, that they should make sure that no tenants are forced to leave because they cannot pay rent at this time. The youth are also making contacts with the agencies of the Delhi government and other social organisations who have offered to feed people.
In many residential colonies of Delhi, several residents have got together to cook and supply two meals a day to the daily wage earning workers, who are now without any means of livelihood. Many organisations working among the poor have come forward with such initiatives.
Haryana: A food delivery service based in Gurgaon, is currently functioning as the centre of the community-led initiative ‘Janta Rasoi’ which is offering food to the daily wagers who are out of work due to the lock down. From 150 meals a day they have reached 300 meals a day and plan to go up to their maximum capacity of 3000 meals a day. A group of people have decided to help the daily wage workers living in Khori gaon in Faridabad district. They are paying for the purchase of potatoes and atta by the village samiti of that area.
Uttar Pradesh: Exporters in Agra are distributing 5,000 packet of food every day among those who have lost their livelihood, such as daily-wage and construction workers. There have been a number of cases of deaths of persons whose family members were stuck elsewhere in the country, and neighbours came forward to carry the dead body to the cremation or burial ground, extending a helping hand despite differences of religion.
Maharashtra: One group in Mumbai has identified and delivered food to 688 slum dwellers and needy individuals. They conducted a survey recently and identified households which are in desperate need of help – like families of ice cream vendors, garland makers, waste collectors, etc. However, their food services have been affected by the strict lock down in Mumbai. They are discussing with the authorities measures to continue their relief work.
Members of the Sikh community have been organising ‘langar’ (free kitchen) at a gurudwara in suburban Mumbai. Some groups in Thane are distributing food packets to homeless people at Kalyan and Dombivali since Monday. One voluntary group in Pune is reaching out to senior citizens about 70 years old and older, who need groceries and medicines.
Many scientists have devoted themselves to the work like development of inexpensive testing kits for testing for the covid 19 infection. One woman scientist in a lab in Pune continued her work in this direction to the very last day before she delivered her baby.
Bihar: Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRTC) staff cooked food for homeless and poor people at Patna Junction campus, in Patna.
Gujarat: Jain community members in Surat packed food for distributing to needy people.
Karnataka: One organisation in Bengaluru is feeding 700 rag-pickers from Hebbal (Kuntigrama), from 29th March. Another organisation is working to provide grocery kits and food packets to waste pickers, construction workers’ families and children who are struggling to make ends meet.
Tamil Nadu: What started off as a small initiative with just seven close friends in Chennai, has now more than 50 volunteers, panning across the metropolis. They are delivering essentials and food to at least 400 people who have difficulties in stepping out of their homes. From musicians to software professionals to businessmen to a retired army officer – the group of volunteers is utilising their “free time” in helping people in need. Another organisation for the welfare of senior citizens is making more than 50 calls per day to reach out to senior citizens in Chennai area and provide much required counseling support. On an average each call is 20 minutes and it helps senior citizens who are prone to anxiety and are battling the impact of loneliness.
Puducherry: Many voluntary organisations in Puducherry have stepped in to address the needs of the homeless, daily wagers and low income groups. One organisation has distributed face masks and sanitisers. They also provided food prepared by their members to around 150 people who were stranded at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Women and Children Hospital on March 30.
Kerala: Large number of community volunteers have been organised throughout Kerala, like it was done during the Kerala floods, as food delivery personnel, bystanders in hospitals for the elderly persons and also to deliver essential commodities to those in home quarantine.
Lok Raj Sangathan salutes the spirit of camaraderie and empathy that lakhs of people throughout India have shown, rising above all differences of religion, caste and party affiliation.