On 29th March 2020, during his monthly Mann Ki Baat program, PM Narendra Modi made a heartening gesture when he apologized to the countrymen for taking the tough decision of a complete nationwide lockdown. He remarked that in order to combat the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, this was one of the most effective options. Given that it is a battle for life and death for millions of people, which the country has to win, strong measures had to be resorted to.
Indians are 10 days into the national lockdown and are consistently putting up a strong fight against the pandemic at hand. While we are all victims of this catastrophe and have been affected by it in some way or the other, there exist more vulnerable sections of society that are bearing disproportionate brunt of these unavoidable measures. The elderly, daily wage earners, employees in the informal sector, laborers, slum-dwellers, low-income groups, sex workers, and stray animals etc. are some members of our community who have been fighting a tougher battle.
To help the marginalized communities, on the one hand, we see the government implementing strong and necessary measures and deploying relief funds; on the other hand, several corporates, business leaders, influencers and celebrities have donated generously to initiatives across the nation to extend a hand of support.
In such perilous times, it is important to highlight the exemplary work being done by Section 8 companies like NGOs, community-led initiatives, activists, and self-help groups. These organizations and individuals have been working round the clock to help our community in such unprecedented times and have shown great enterprise in helping ease the distress of marginalized communities during this lockdown.
While we sit in the comfort of our homes feeling grateful for the economic safety nets we have built to get us through these 21 days, let us take a moment to thank all those unsung heroes who have been working day and night to help the poor who are struggling to earn a single meal a day.
Distribution of food: One of the major problems faced by the underprivileged members of society is access to regular meals due to their low and unstable income and reduction in informal job opportunities. To make sure no one has to sleep hungry at night, various organizations such as Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action, Janta Rasoi, Rise against Hunger India, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Adamya Chetana and Parikrama Humanity Foundation have been providing healthy, nutritious and hygienic meals to one and all, twice a day throughout India. Zomato’s Feeding India has initiated ‘Feed the Daily Wager’ campaign to provide ration kits containing wheat flour or rice and pulses to daily wager communities and have collaborated with local NGOs for distribution.
Hygiene kits: Currently, the biggest issue faced by countries battling this pandemic is community spread, the armor for which is proper hygiene and sanitation. Uday Foundation, Safa India, Seeds India, etc. are equipping the vulnerable individuals with basic hygiene kits consisting of handwash, sanitizer and other supplies to battle the epidemic. Bengaluru-based Hasiru Dala has identified approximately 2,200 vulnerable waste pickers’ families across six cities in Karnataka and is seeking funds to provide care kits, consisting of soaps and dry rations to these families.
Donations & financial assistance: To keep the supply chain moving and provide other organizations and individuals enough liquidity in these times of cash crunch, various organizations such as Care India, Give India, Goonj, amongst others, have created platforms where individuals and organizations can donate and these donations shall thereafter be used to procure hygiene supplies, food and provide financial assistance.
Support to the elderly: The elderly population is extremely vulnerable as the coronavirus adversely affects them the most. It becomes all the more important for the elderly to practice social distancing diligently. Delivery of groceries and medicines, nursing and attendance care, counseling services, elderly care, etc. is the need of the hour for the senior citizens. Action for Pune Development, Samvedna Senior Care, Robin Hood, etc. are some organizations working towards addressing these issues. Bhoomika Trust, with its network of volunteers, is assisting senior citizens in fetching medicine and food supplies and their call center directs the request to teams as per the requirement.
Shelter homes: Community spread makes destitute the most vulnerable to the virus and it is our duty as fellow citizens to protect them. Organizations such as Wishes & Blessings, Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses and NGO Santosh are converting daycare centers into shelter homes and providing basic amenities such as food and water.
Changemakers: While we all are EQUAL members of this society, some of us are not given the same strata they righteously deserve. Breaking this fourth wall, NGOs such as Citizens for Justice and Peace are working to provide financial assistance and food supplies to sex workers. Furthermore, to help the on-ground fighters, the waste-pickers, NGOs such as Kashtakari Panchayat are organizing fundraising events to procure safety kits, consisting of gloves, masks, soaps and sanitizers, and a month’s supply of essentials like grains, pulses, oil, sugar, and tea for these citizens.
Animal welfare: Another externality that arises out of such pandemics is the lack of care of stray animals as people like us are not able to actively take care of them and shelters have temporarily shut down as well as are facing a shortage of staff. These animals can neither fight for their rights nor convey their needs; they are helpless. Various NGOs such as Nature’s Ally Foundation, All & Sundry, social enterprises such as Pawzz and various animal rescuers have come together to provide daily meals to such animals. Further, these organisations are also making sure that those animals are safe and sound.
We believe it is important to realize that it takes each one of us to fight the pandemic. In addition to the impact this has on our health, multiple negative externalities are also created by our attempts to reduce the impact of coronavirus. While it is unarguably important to prevent the disaster from wreaking havoc and take preventive measures to do so, we must also be compassionate and helpful in these times.
Paying your house help in full, not demanding rent from your tenants, donating food to the underserved and educating people around you about the measures they can take to keep safe are some of the many small ways in which we can, together as a society, overcome this battle. And, we shall overcome!