COVID-19 Pandemic relief work: Desperate times calls for Selfless People

NGOs and civil society organsiations are organising community kitchens, food, medicines and ration delivery services in Bangalore to provide relief work to poor and needy neighbourhoods.

relief work
Mercy mission volunteers distributing food rations and medicines to areas in Bangalore

“The unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.”

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon said this in the context of colonization and the coloniser’s inability to acknowledge the harm it did to mankind. In a strange way, the collapse of the Indian model of governance in the midst of a pandemic must help us realise that the current educated class in India lacks a practical link with the masses. 

A friend who works in a senior role in the private sector was amazed to know that nine out of ten Indian labourers belong to the informal sector and nearly three out of the nine are seasonal migrants. 120 million people (two times the population of UK ) migrate for jobs. The idea of locking a country without a plan is ill-conceived and we will be paying a price for it in the years to come. 

Yet, in these times of utmost hopelessness, I remember Mandela,

“There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.  That way lies defeat and death.”

Vinay Kumar supports blood banks and drives patients to hospitals and clinics. A friend collects and collates details of migrants so that help can reach them. Saman & Umair distribute 200 food packets every day in Ilyas Nagar, Kanaka Nagar and Chandra Nagar of Bangalore.

I spoke to Ameen from Mercy Mission, a collaboration of fourteen NGOs. They have a helpline. Their operational teams have been set-up in eight areas. The relief is often handled locally. They provide cooked food that is often sought by migrant labourers, and ration for those who have lost their job or income because of the lock-down but still have a place to stay. They are also providing medicines. Ameen informs me that the demand for medicines is increasing as lower-income communities often stock medicines only for a week and it is nearly a week since the lock-down began. Mercy Mission is receiving close to 3,500 calls a day and they now have a backend team for needs-assessment. They have also started a kitchen in DJ Halli. They are working with the Government to reach a maximum number of people.

Naavu Bharatiyaru ( hum bharat ke log) team distributing food rations in Ashwath nagar area

Naavu Bharatiyaru (Karnataka’s unit of Hum Bharat Ke Log) and WithBangalore have put together a team of volunteers with the necessary infrastructure to coordinate relief operations.

Goonj has already started its relief operations in Bengaluru. Its ability to manage large scale relief and rehabilitation will be critical as the impact of the lock-down are likely to worsen.

CareMongers and others are using social media like Facebook and WhatsApp-groups to share needs and help volunteers reach the impacted communities. Many individual efforts are getting co-ordinated, citizens are coming together through various platforms to connect and support the people who have been impacted the most.

We as citizens must make our Government accountable. We must also demand improved governance and devolution of power to local communities. The demand for federalism and local decision making is key in finding a way out of the pandemic and the economic distress of lock-down.  The efforts of our people must inspire us to do more in this unprecedented crisis. To inspire us I will borrow a line from Mercy Mission’s poster, Saving One life is equivalent to saving Humanity. 

The author is a data scientist based in Bangalore. 

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