The coronavirus has affected people the world over – from disease to death to loss of livelihood. While things have surely been tough, the crisis has also had its positive impacts. Environmental quality has improved the world over. While the migrant labour is stranded in cities and many in villages have lost their livelihood, there are also stories of generosity and caring, of how people have come together to provide income support, rations and other necessities to those in need.
Lockdown 1.0 began on March 25, 2020. Around this time, we got to know that a few families in and around Agar, the village where we are based, were struggling to feed themselves. The Government compensation package was to take effect on the 1st of April. Moreover, with transport shut and the nearest bank being 9 kilometres away, it was difficult to access the money in one’s own account for many. Rations through the Public Distribution System had not yet arrived in most villages.
This got us moving. The first challenge was raising the finances for this program. And as usual, my friends from school – from the ’94 batch of Mayo College, Ajmer and my friends from college – Shriram College of Commerce (SRCC), were so forthcoming. Money came flooding in. In fact, after a while, I had to request them to not put money into our bank account as I did not want to hoard resources at this point in time.
Once we had the money, we connected with the local administration. With the lockdown imposed, we needed permission to move around. Moreover, we wanted to co-ordinate our efforts with the local administration to avoid any duplicity of efforts. We had heard stories of how some people had got 2 to 3 ration kits while some had not got a single one. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate was extremely helpful. He immediately issued us a pass which allowed us to move around for relief efforts. He also connected us with the Block Development Officer (BDO) of the Thanagazi Block, who in turn connected us with all the Gram Sevaks. The Gram Sevaks were instrumental in identifying people who needed help.
All in all, we provided rations to 222 families spread over 23 villages. Each ration kit comprised of the following:
10 kg wheat flour (aata)
1 kg dal
1 kg cooking oil
1 kg potatoes
1 kg sugar
1 kg salt
250 grams red chilli powder
100 grams haldi powder
1 soap (this was given to those who did not already have a soap)
We took pictures only on the first day of ration distribution as I have always believed that doing so is demeaning for the poor. However, we had to take a few pictures as evidence of the activity carried out. So sharing those pictures. Also, it would be unfair to end this note without commending the efforts of my colleagues – Deepak (better known as Deepu) and Kaluram. While I am locked up at home, it was Deepu and Kaluram who ran the show.
In the immediate run, I think that that the crisis has been taken care of. I am quite hopeful that nobody is sleeping hungry. However, what worries me is the livelihoods crisis that is quite likely to unfold in the days to come. I just hope that we are able to step up our game and are able to provide for livelihoods to a good number of people.