Reaching out to those in distress amid Covid: With food, ambulance, and more
Chandrakumar Gupta, 23, from Kargahar in Bihar was at his hostel in Delhi University last year when a photo of a migrant labourer carrying his daughter on his shoulders while on his long walk back home in Bihar flashed on his mobile screen. Gupta created a twitter handle @MigrantTravel where he would upload details of buses and trains to help migrants return home.
Gupta is one of the many people in big cities who were so moved by the suffering of the common man, children, and even animals, amid the pandemic that they have stepped out to help.
While Gupta started out alone, slowly, others joined him. “One evening, I got a message from one Sonam Chaturvedi who wanted to arrange a bus for some construction workers from Bihar. Since, I had already been sharing bus details for migrants, I had some numbers of bus operators and we could arrange one for whose fare was paid by Sonam,” says Gupta.
However, the bus was not allowed to travel as it didn’t have the requisite permit. “I had to struggle for a few days but finally, I managed to get the permission. All this while, my neighbours, Armaan and Sourabh Roy, served the stranded migrants food and in two days, our first bus had reached Bhagalpur in Bihar with 50 migrant workers.” he says.
Soon, the ones who had reached home sent out the team’s contact numbers to their friends, motivating the team to raise funds to send one more such bus. “It all grew so big that the four of us have sent over 6,100 migrant workers to their homes in Bihar while we raised an amount ₹56 lakh in just a few months,” says Gupta.
Heartbreaking stories of struggle have kept them going. “One evening when we were distributing food packets to workers before sending them home, a man on a cycle rickshaw with his wife and two children stopped and asked for a food packet. He said he belonged to Nalanda in Bihar and worked in Haridwar as a rickshaw-puller. So he had cycled from Haridwar with his family on his way home when he bumped into us. We sent them back on the bus; his rickshaw mounted on the bus,” says Gupta.
However, the team’s support did not end with organising meals and travel home. Having identified 400 migrants whom they gave a ₹1,000 each initial support, they also organised sewing machines and carts for them which helped migrants sustain back home.
Also, once the first wave subsided, Kumar connected labourers with prospective employers in Delhi. “As the situation got better and many of them found work here, we arranged for their return to Delhi too,” he said.
Now as the second wave is yet to plateau, Kumar says not many workers are pleading to get back home yet but there is a crisis of proper health care. The team -- comprising Sonam, Arman and Sourabh, apart from Gupta -- has bought two ambulances.
“We set up a helpline 011-6119-8168 on May 2 where people from disadvantaged sections of society can call for help. We have also hired a doctor who provides online consultation on this helpline,” he says.
The number has already got around 400 calls and they have helped in the hospitalisation of over a hundred patients. “For those needing medicines or oxygen cylinders, we drop them at their doorstep,” says Kumar who is now planning to setup a 25 bed Covid care centre in Haryana’s Hathin block where the positivity rate is high and good healthcare facility not available.
In Mumbai, Aditi Mundra, 25, has been baking cakes since the second wave of the pandemic began in India. A graphic designer by profession, Aditi says while everyone was raising funds for oxygen cylinders and medicines, many of the children orphaned by Covid have no one to look after them. “This is when I thought I should use my baking skills to raise funds to help these children,” she says.
With her single kitchen oven, Aditi has been baking cakes daily and has made over ₹30,000 in sales. “While I am spending some money to buy protein kits and baby food for children who have lost their breadwinners to Covid, I am also sending stationery kits to holistic care centres of children who are suffering from cancer,” she says.
“When I am not baking, I virtually attend to these ailing children and involve them in recreational tasks such as painting with the colour boxes that I sent them as gifts,” adds Aditi who also raised ₹124,000 which she used to buy ration for the families of migrant workers in Mumbai.
In New Delhi, Urwi Goyal, 34, who is Covid positive right now, moves out in the courtyard of her house every evening along with a big basket of food to serve four dogs who have been there for two months after their owners abandoned them amid the pandemic.
A former administrative officer who quit her job four years back to devote her time to helping people, has been reaching out to as many as 150 dogs each day in Delhi’s locked industrial areas with the food that she prepares at her home.
“It all began last year when we saw so many helpless dogs in streets. Since, then my husband and I started moving around in our car to serve them food. Initially, it was just 10 odd dogs in our street but today, we serve all the dogs in all blocks of Naraina in Delhi,” she says.
While she has also got over 120 dogs sterilised, she is also training as many 50 other women from families of migrant labourers in Delhi so they could help more of such families in crisis.
Last year, these women had identified 25,000 destitute women in Delhi and helped them with ration. This year along with ration, they are reaching out to women with medicines and sanitary pads in the lockdown.
“I was raised by a single mother. By helping women, I am only trying to do a bit of what my mother did for me,” she says.