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Cutting Along Religious, Caste Divides, Citizens in India Unite to Help the Less Fortunate during Coronavirus Crisis


Inclusive India

New Delhi, April 17— These faceless people are humanity’s heroes who have come out of their comfort zones to help the poor and less fortunate during this Coronavirus crisis in India.

People have got united to help the less fortunate during the coronavirus pandemic. From food banks across the country to manning helplines to stitching homemade masks, everybody – cutting along religious, caste and ideological divides – is doing as much as they can in this crisis.

This story features the efforts of a few heroes and the work they are doing in different corners of the country – from Surat in the west, to Bengaluru in the south, to Delhi in the north –  in different voluntary capacities, often at risk to themselves.

A short video documentary by Pluc TV/South Asia Monitor with support of Frank Islam Foundation has captured some of those heroes.

For more than three weeks, the entire country is in a lockdown to limit the spread of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 but a lockdown can be extremely harsh for the poorest, especially daily wage earners and migrant labour who are estimated to number nearly 140 million. It is in these testing times that ordinary citizens have risen to the occasion and come forward to help the needy and the desperate.

In Surat city of Gujarat, local volunteers have organized food banks to feed the needy. This is a familiar sight across many parts of India. In the national capital New Delhi, citizens have taken it upon themselves to ensure that no one goes hungry.

Bhavreen Kandhari and her citizen volunteers have bene distributing food to the homeless in South Delhi.

Bhavreen Kandhari says: “It’s not easy. As citizens there are just a handful of us and we are creating over 7000 meals each day for people and we are crating over 7000 meals each day for people. In the last two weeks we have delivered over 4000 Kgs of food. We hope to increase that so that those around us and whoever reaches out to us will not go hungry.”

There are many other nameless heroes who have emerged in this crisis. Many have been sitting at their sewing machines, stitching masks for public distribution. This has been seen in many Indian states like Manipur, Orissa and Bihar.

The battle against the Coronavirus requires unity and resolve. The selflessness of these citizens can turn a crisis into an opportunity to bring out the best in us.

A Karnataka state control centre also runs a food helpline to provide meals to the needy. 250 civil defence volunteers have been making supply kits with 15 essential items in each kit. They are in the process of making 1,70,000 such kits. With construction sites deserted these supplies help daily wage labourers meet their daily needs.

Dr PRS Chetan, Commander, Karnataka Civil Defence Force says: “Let them stay inside. We will work outside for their safety and we will make sure that every single person gets a meal.”

For college student Regina Filina, time off from college due to Coronavirus lockdown does not mean she is taking life easy. She volunteers to take calls at a 24X7 Covid-19 control centre set up by the state government in India’s IT hub of Bengaluru.

Regina Filina says: “The government needs resources and people who are talented and educated so that they can act as a middleman and transfer information to the public.”

This control centre helps fight fake news and misinformation by verifying information for citizens by citizens.

Prasanna, also a volunteer at the centre, says: “Here we are supporting people with information from WhatsApp, Twitter and Telegram groups. When people have doubts and we clarify those doubts. Sometimes they ask that such a problem exists in a particular area. We guide them on whom to contact and hot to resolve the problem.”

As the grate American statesman Abraham Lincoln said: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”