Civil Society Volunteers Rush to Feed the Needy Amidst Coronavirus Lockdown

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Photo Credit: Karwa-e-Mohabbat Facebook

 

Reaching out to the needy without triggering any glut and dearth issues is not a big challenge for these volunteers, thanks to the anti-CAA, NRC protests which cultivated a culture of solidarity, support and knowing each other. It is because of the protests over CAA-NRC a lot of groups had come together to form a coalition.

Zafar Aafaq |Clarion India

NEW DELHI — The unprecedented lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in wake of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country has rendered hundreds of thousands jobless. Most of them are homeless, stranded migrant labourers and daily-wage workers,  who no longer have any work and therefore, have no wages with which to buy food for themselves and their families.

Several groups and individuals have come forward to provide some sort of relief to the needy. Dedicated volunteers of these groups are preparing food and ration packs and distribute them among the people who struggle to make ends meet amidst the lockdown.

“It was an emergency situation that we felt we had to respond to,” says Natasha Badhwar, an activist associated with Karwan e Mohabbat, a prominent civil society rights group which has been doing tireless work for the welfare of homeless in India.

The data available with Clarion India reflects that Badhwar’s group provides meals to thousands of people in need every day.

For instance, on the March 29, the group distributed 5,000 meals in residential areas across Delhi such as Ramesh Park, Nizamuddin, Pushta area, Wazirabad, Chhatarpur, Mukundpur chowk, Badli, and Rohini Kali Mandir.

Previous experience helped the group in doing quick needs assessment and do immediate intervention into communities of homeless, the migrant labourer, the construction labourer, the coolies, the Rohingya refugees and the refugees from Pakistan.

Nadeem Khan of United Against Hate Group. Photo Credit: Internet

She says says the group provides three kinds of help. “We supply cooked food packets to people who are homeless and do not have means to cook for themselves. We also distribute dry ration packs with flour, rice, lentils, and cooking oil that will last for a week. In certain cases, we identify the nearest ration shop and ask the shopkeeper to supply ration to the families and making direct money transfer to the shop,” she explains.

Speaking to Clarion India, Nadeem Khan of United Against Hate said his group, in collaboration with Society For Bright Future, has been running the operations in Delhi from the day lockdown was announced. “We provide cooked food to nearly 7,000 people per day.”

This group has set up four makeshift community kitchens at different places in Delhi where food is cooked, packed and then supplied to colonies of impoverished residents.

“Basically, we have identified areas where migrant labourers live,” Khan said, adding, “Everyday, our volunteers go to these places and distribute the food packs among the needy.”

Though there are restrictions for traffic during the lockdown period, the volunteers have been given permission by authorities to conduct relief work.

“We have got six passes that allow us to take six vans in Delhi,” says Badhwar of Karwan-e-Mohabbat

Her group’s volunteers are camping at the office because it is not advisable to shuttle back and forth between office and home. “We are wearing masks and gloves, but beyond that the people we are reaching out to are vulnerable to the virus,” she says while speaking on the challenges in discharging the responsibility of a volunteer amidst the pandemic.

On March 31, the Delhi government started to distribute ration and food and feeding needy people at schools. The volunteers hoped that the move would mitigate the distress to some degree in Delhi.

Students at their own level are also contributing to providing succor in these challenging times. United For Humanity is a group of students drawn from colleges across different states. Currently, the group is helping provide meals to over 500 families in Delhi, Deoband (Uttar Pradesh) and Jaipur.

“In Delhi, we are basically delivering cooked food packets to those who eat at dhabas, but are unable to go out because everything is shut,” regretted Qasim Usmani, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia and the co-founder of the group.

Karwan-e-Mohabbat is not just restricted to Delhi. Badhwar says they are conducting relief work in several other states as well. These include Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Haryana. According to the data shared with Clarion India, on the April 2 in Jharkhand, the group distributed ration of 1,000 kits in Bokaro and 500 kits in Dhanbad.

Natasha Badhwar of Karwan-e- Mohabbat group. Photo Credit: Internet

Reaching out to the needy without triggering any glut and dearth issues is not a big challenge for these volunteers, thanks to the anti-CAA, NRC protests which cultivated a culture of solidarity, support and knowing each other. It is because of the protests over CAA-NRC a lot of groups had come together to form a coalition.

Badhwar says these groups are now a coalition of civil society. “We are all coordinated with each other through digital means and we cross checking each other all the time and we know who is in which area.”

The volunteers say raising funds to buy ration has not been a huge challenge. The donors approach and sometimes a shout out on social media or a phone call is all that is needed to raise money.

While the groups are trying hard to help the needy overcome the hardship due to the ongoing lockdown, the volunteers worry that the need are going to spread over months due to the economic slowdown in India. “We find ourselves working to overcome the consequences of all of this for over a year or two,” says Badhwar.

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