Updated: Aug 9, 2020
There are countless tales of lakhs of migrant workers, landless labourers, impoverished street children, beggars, sex workers, transgenders etc. who have been rendered helpless since the lockdown. The sudden lockdown has only added to their existing woes. However, there are Non-Governmental Organisations and good samaritans who have been a ray of hope for those who were starving due to no employment during the lockdown and have been rendered helpless financially too due to loss of jobs. Thriive brings you stories from across Maharashtra including the rural areas on how despite challenges, against all odds, people have not only extended a helping hand to those who do not have a voice, but good samaritans, also opened their hearts which not only brought smiles on every face but also show that the world is still a good place.
The government plays an active role with NGOs in the prevention and treatment of HIV by providing free of cost Anti-Retroviral Drug (ARD) to patients from HIV centres. The HIV+ patients must present their medical record books to collect their prescribed ARD, provided to them by the medical centres for maintaining healthcare data. Rita (name changed to protect identity), a 15 year-old girl from Kalwa, was under the ARD treatment and could not get access to the medical record book by which she could continue her HIV treatment. Due to a sudden complete lockdown in Mumbai, her mother could not travel from Kamathipura to Kalwa near Thane, to hand over the medical record book.
In the last 22 years, Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC) has joined forces with various government medical centres in helping to tackle the medical needs and difficulties faced by HIV + patients. Upon hearing about Rita’s plight, AAWC immediately sprang into action, contacted the medical authorities at Kalwa and obtained the details of organisations working with HIV+ people in her residential area to deliver ARD. As AAWC outreach staff coordinated with the authorities, a medical mobile van successfully delivered the vital drugs to Rita.
Speaking to Thriive, Rita said, “Since I am on medication, I was scared that soon my medical supplies will be over and I would not be able to continue my treatment during this pandemic. As anxiety and dismay continued to grow, I realized how fragile my life is without these tablets. AAWC was my saviour.”
Manju Vyas, the Chief Executive Officer of Apne Aap Women’s Collective said, “In the last two months, we have distributed daily meals and groceries to sex workers and transgenders at Kamathipura after seeking permission from Nagpada police under whose jurisdiction, the area falls. We have also counselled the sex workers and their children. We are also conducting online schooling for their children. Extra-curricular sessions are being conducted through Zoom.”
“There is no fear about Covid-19 among these sex workers. However, due to the lockdown, they have lost their livelihood and they are worried about when life will return to normalcy, “added Vyas.
The sudden imposition of the lockdown across the country has thrown the lives of many families into chaos. These includes landless labourers working on farms in rural areas which constitutes 60 percent of the population. There are seven to eight members living in one small room with no basic facilities and no awareness about Covid-19 and its symptoms. Due to this situation in Yavatmal, Light of Life Trust (LOLT) started counselling the beneficiaries and their parents. The objective of the counselling was to give moral and emotional support and create awareness about the disease. The social workers made daily calls to the students and would take updates of their situation. Through one of those calls, the plight of Ankita Rathod, an eighth standard student of Ramu Naik Vidhyala at Warud in Yavatmal, Maharashtra was brought to light. During the lockdown period, her father and mother both stayed at home without any work. Her father Namdev, a landless labourer and an alcoholic was going through financial crisis. Namdev had sold the grains available at their home and spent the remaining money on alcohol.
As part of the grocery distribution for the beneficiaries, Dilip, a social worker at LOLT made a concrete plan of the grocery distribution in Yavatmal. On the day of distribution, with the permission of a police inspector, he traveled to Warud and distributed grocery to Ankita’s family. Ankita and her mother cried tears of happiness. Ankita’s mother told Dilip that since her husband was addicted to alcohol, none of the villagers had helped the starving family and they had not eaten since many days.
Mauja Dada Valvi, from Khuntamodi in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, was planning to visit his relatives place to ask for food since his family did not have anything to eat at home. All the shops were shut and he was very worried about his family. When LOLT’s social worker distributed a grocery and hygiene kit, he smiled after a long time. The volunteer narrated that he had never seen Mauja smiling like that ever before.
Ashwina Valvi’s father, Bijla, a resident of Khuntamodi in Nandurba is a daily wage earner and whatever little savings the family had was spent for Holi. Due to the lockdown, Ashwina’s father could not step out for work and there was no money left to buy food. When Bijla received a grocery kit, he cried.
There was no money at Ganesh Rahase’s home at Dhadgaon in Maharashtra, since his parents who are daily wage earners could not step out for work. Ganesh was planning to take a loan and buy food for the family but he was unable to do so. After receiving a grocery kit, he seemed very happy and said this help will remain etched in his memory forever.
Mogi Pawara does not have a mobile phone at her residence at Dhadgaon and could not be directly contacted by the volunteers of LOLT. She heard the news that a social worker was distributing grocery kits to students. As there was no mobile phone, she visited the social workers house four times under a strict lockdown. Unfortunately, she could not meet him since he was busy with the food distribution process on field. Upon learning this, the social worker went to the child’s house and saw all members were anxious since there was nothing to eat. The timely delivery has ensured the family would not go hungry for a month atleast.
Stories of women from the skilling programme at LOLT
31 year-old Pratima Bhoir had learnt tailoring in LOLT’s livelihood programme and is currently working at their tailoring production unit at Kashele at Karjat. Her husband is a mechanic at a local garage. They have two children. Due to the lockdown, the couple could not step out of their homes for their livelihood. Money was fast running out and so was food. The grocery support ensured the family would have food on their plates.
Lalita Thackeray, a sole breadwinner of her family hails from Tiware village. She has three daughters and an alcoholic husband who refuses to work. She earns a livelihood through the tailoring production unit at Tiware. Due to the lockdown, she has been unable to step out and the entire family was in despair not knowing where the next meal would come from. LOLT’s grocery support was a boon for them.
Raj Atish Sakharker, a resident of Tuptakali village is a 9th standard student of A. D. Attewar high school. Raj belongs to to the backward minority community. Raj’s father, committed suicide in 2019. Since then his mother had started working on a farm to fulfill the needs of her children. Due to the lockdown, the family was in a very difficult situation. They were starving due to unavailability of money to purchase grocery, so his mother managed to find work in a neighboring village for a day. With the money she earned, she was able to buy some food from a market which was ten kilometres away but getting to the market with an autorickshaw would cost her Rs 300, three times her daily wages, since no buses are running due to the lockdown. She walked the long stretch to Digras market and purchased some grocery.
Sheela Iyer, Lead, Marketing & Communication of Light Of Life Trust said, “We have provided groceries and hygiene kits to 6450 families so far. Our volunteers and parent workers have reached out to the daily wage earners and landless labourers at Worli in Mumbai, Raigad, Karjat, Jalna, Ahmednagar, Mangaon, Nandurbar, Washim and Yavatmal in Maharashtra and Pench in Rajasthan.”
Shrimad Ramchandra Mission is supporting daily wagers, migrant workers, the underprivileged as well as doctors, nurses, wardboys, other frontline staff including policemen. Over 15 lakh meals have been served. Over 2 lakh daily essentials and food items were distributed by 2,000 volunteers across 50 cities in India and abroad. Relief initiatives were undertaken in Dharampur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Akola, Amravati, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Dhanbad, Gandhinagar, Guwahati, Jaipur, Jamnagar, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Nadiad, Nagpur, Nashik, Navsari, Pune, Rajkot, Secunderabad, Silvassa, Surat, Surendranagar, Vadodara and Wankaner in India.
Supporting Frontliners Over 10,00 medical frontliners have benefitted. 3,400 PPE kits, 20.60 lakh masks, 1,630 litres of sanitizer, 1,000 safety kits to the Government of Gujarat officials, 1.40 lakh health drinks, 150 medical staff trained for ventilator usage and 300 beds were sourced for government quarantine facility were provided by Shrimad Ramchandra Mission. 11,700 stray animals were fed and 36,000 kgs of fodder and grains were fed to the cattle.
In Mumbai, meals were distributed for the frontline doctors at Bhatia hospital, JJ hospital and St. George hospital as well as the policemen.
Reshma Jain, from the fundraiser and public relations department of Shrimad Ramchandra Mission said, “Near Dahisar toll naka, a closed container ferrying 70 migrants was stopped by the police. The migrants were travelling to West Bengal in the absence of no special trains arranged last month. The police contacted our sewa team and we served the migrants lemon juice, biscuits and some food. Tears rolled down while serving them. They had not eaten since two days.”
A volunteer speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “I have been distributing food and water to the migrant workers at railway stations and on open grounds where they are assembled by the police, so they can be ferried back home. Most of the migrant workers are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. I am also assisting the Dharavi, Shahu Nagar and Kurla police in mobilising the migrants through Shramik special trains to their native places.”
Groceries and meals were distributed to the transgenders, sex workers, adivasis and migrant workers by ARAJ, a Non-Governmental Organisation. Araj covered areas like Thane, Diva, Airoli, Raigad, Nalasopara, Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Andheri, Byculla, Zaveri Bazaar, Kamathipura and Navy Nagar.
ARAJ is an initiative by four women, Abha Shah, Riddhi Sangvi, Archana Sheth and Jaya Barmecha from South Mumbai. In the face of this mammoth human crisis, ARAJ has been relentlessly working towards helping the daily wage workers, migrant workers and many other affected groups of society.
Abha Shah, a co-founder of ARAJ said, “We have mobilised 35000 cooked meals and 76750 kgs of ration across slums, shelters and to the homeless, touching almost 30700 lives so far. We are trying our best to ensure that no one should sleep hungry.”
There was a WhatsApp message shared on Live to Give Whatsapp group that a very elderly lady, Ms. Borges at Hindu Colony in Dadar (east) needed help. Her walker broke and she could barely walk around the house. She needed a walking stick with four pegs, a Volini spray and a balm. When Marzy Parakh, the founder of Live to Give spoke to her, she sounded out of breath and needed a caregiver. A volunteer had rushed to her aid.
Marzy Parakh, the founder of Live to Give said, “We coordinated with other group members and one of the volunteers rushed immediately to the lady’s residence at Raj Niketan at Hindu colony and provided the elderly lady, a walking stick and a Volini tube.”
Live to Give is a unique good samaritan’s initiative founded by Marzy Parakh who has been working for the cause of empowering disabled and underprivileged individuals for over 14 years. Live to Give brings together donors, social workers, medical and administrative workers as well as common citizens under one roof to aid the underprivileged and differently-abled individuals. The nature of the platform enables it to work almost like a 24 hour helpline.
We can all work in our own capacities and help other who need assistance. Help can be in any form – find what you can do and work towards making the world a better place.
As published on Thrive Art and Soul