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India’s Silent Saviours

By Manisha Maan

New Delhi: Corona Virus infections in India have exceeded 56,000 mark, and 1,886 people have died. With the onset of inter-state migration and crowding outside liquor shops, the numbers will rocket over coming weeks. Media headlines scream mismanagement and politicians bandy accusations for political gains. Far from this cacophony, a diverse lot of individuals and organisations work silently to help vulnerable across the country.

Delhi Gurudawara Prabhandak Committee (DGPC) is working with railways to cater food for poor workers leaving Delhi for their home towns across India. DGPC President Manjinder Singh Sirsa said they are distributing free food packets to migrants leaving Delhi by trains. The first train left from New Delhi Railway Station to Chattarpur, Madhaya Pradesh on Thursday night.

DGPC has also been coordinating with police in providing about 1-1.5 lakh daily food packages for distribution among poor in Delhi. “We deliver the food packets with the area SHOs for distribution to poor family households and slum clusters. Then, there are areas like Shish Ganj Gurduwara Chandni Chowk and Azad Pur Mandi Chowk where we directly distribute food to those in need,” says Sirsa.

DGPC has also handed over its inns and hospitals for treatment of corona virus patients and for accommodation of medical staff from Lady Harding Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital. Their commitment to the public welfare was appreciated by Delhi Police and later by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

About 1,586 kilometers away from New Delhi, Mohammed Shujatullah of Humanity First Foundation distributes food outside hospitals, orphanages and railway stations in Hyderabad. Since 2015, not a day has set without him serving steaming bowls of upma to the poor.

“Our Prime Minister had requested people to stay at home on March 22 as Janta Curfew Day to show solidarity with health professionals. So, I did not step out that morning. But then I received so many calls that I wrote to the Police Commissioner Office on Facebook, telling him about my work and the messages I was getting about people going hungry that day.” Shujatulah was given permission to go there in evening with a security officer and distribute food. “I saw about 500 people waiting for me. They said the only meal they have had was what they had eaten the day before,” says the pharmacy professional.

The incident firmed up his resolve to continue serving food during lockdown. “There are times when my family tells me not to go out because so many people are testing positive for corona virus. Then I talk to them about doctors, engineers, policemen, nurses and other medical staff who have their families yet step out to perform their duty. I tell them that I also have to do my duty. “    

Shujatulah relies on crowd funding and individual donations to sponsor his charity work. He now distributes 1, 500 plates of breakfast and lunch, and 200 bottles of half litre water daily to ease the hot summers. His organisation is also providing raw material food packets containing rice, flour, oil, pulses, salt and spices to 8 orphanges and 900 families living in slum clusters of the city.

Some 1283 kilometers from Hyderabad, a microbiology PhD scholar at Lucknow’s King George Medical University is contributing in a different way. Ramakrishna was helping on his family farm in Telengana when a phone call from his HoD (Head of Department) Amita Jain made him cut short his vacation and return to his research lab to assist in testing samples for corona virus infections. Within an hour of the call, Ramkrishna had convinced his family and packed his bags to take the flight to Lucknow to work alongside the medical fraternity towards detecting and containing the epidemic.

Then there are stories, of children donating their piggy banks for purchase of face masks and sanitisers, and for feeding masses who live on street, and of old men donating their life savings towards improving health care infrastructure. There are about 92,000 NGOs and many more individuals, some acknowleged by authorities but most of them working anonymously, who are trying to comfort millions battling pandemic and penury. Individually, their strivings may not count much in a nation of about 1.4 billion people of whom about a quarter live below poverty line. Yet each one of them affirms the commitment towards healing the ocean of humanity called India.

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