My curiosity is definitely piqued when I am told that there are about 20-25 young people aged 18-23 who are ready to drag themselves out of their beds early in the morning on a holiday (for Id) to talk to me about a cause they believe in.
Refusing to believe that one can tear youngsters away from Facebooking or tweeting or Whatsapping, I - somewhat skeptically - take up the offer of young Priyanka Banerjee, a second-year bachelor’s of business student at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College (DDUC) to meet up with members of her NGO, Moksha, most of whom are students from Delhi University, Symbiosis and IP University.
Banerjee is waiting for me when I land up at the metro station at Shadipur and fills me up on her group’s activities as we take the autorickshaw to the NGO office at the Naraina Industrial Area. Meeting Devesh Lalwani, Banerjee’s senior who has just graduated from DDUC and other members is a wonderful experience. They make a happy, energetic group led by the tall jeans-and-kurta-clad Lalwani, all talking animatedly about some of Moksha’s welfare initiatives.
The volunteers work on three levels – taking up awareness programmes; providing legal and medical aid to those who cannot afford it and promoting green energy.
As part of a recent initiative, Jan Utsav, Moksha set up Aadhar card camps. Harish Arunachalam, Lalwani’s senior from DDUC, who is now working with a research and analytics firm, says “There are many areas in Delhi where people have not got their cards. They get us the registration slips and we help them get printouts of the cards or follow up their cases.”
People around the villages of Naraina are also being helped to get their voter cards to spread awareness of the importance of voting. Symbiosis Law School students Megha and Purvasha help organise camps where senior lawyers extend pro bono assistance.
“People do need help, there are people we know who are not even aware of how an FIR is lodged,” says Megha
Moksha to the rescue
At a recent health camp, says Arunachalam, people were tested for BP, sugar, heart problems and bone density. A gynaecologist, a cardiologist, and general physician and pulmonologist were present at the venue. Members use their chain of network and good PR to rope in hospitals to help. And it does not end there. The hospitals later follow-up on the cases and give huge discounts to the patients.
Work to build up Moksha started about two years ago, but Lalwani, whose family is also into welfare work, managed to get it registered (under Section 60 of the Indian Trust Act) on April 2012. A participant at MUN (Model United Nations) Lalwani had been to the UN for a conference where “we were told we had the power to change things with discussions and dialogues,” he says. As that was not enough, he decided to reach out to people in need of help. Roping in his father and friends from the Lions and Rotary clubs, lawyers and chartered accountants, Lalwani asked friends from his college and others through Facebook and Whatsapp to join up and spread the word.
One of the big challenges for Moksha was sending relief supplies to villages affected by the Uttarakhand disaster.
The NGO adopted three villages near Guptakashi in response to a distress call from a Gujarat-based college professor, Dr Neerja. She had family in Uttarakhand and was going up to help the people cut off by the floods.
Through word of mouth, fathers, their friends and others, supplies and cash worth about R5lakh each were organised and a truck flagged off. As roads were damaged, the material was moved to a smaller vehicle at Rishikesh which could better handle the rough terrain. Unfortunately, it was involved in an accident but mercifully the passengers escaped unhurt. Little, however, of the relief material could be salvaged.
“Once our team reached the disaster area we were told that the villagers needed food supplies. So, in the next batch, about 500 packets of daal, chawal, sugar, haldi powder and tea were sent up,” says Lalwani.
Moksha members meet every week or whenever there is an interesting project to discuss. Anyone wanting to be a member is welcomed but the group is focused on one thing: Commitment. Without devotion to the cause you will not be accepted.