It is observed that COVID 19 will change people's perspective to look at life. There are households that are spending time together in this lockdown and uploading photo on social media of them cooking together. But on the other hand, there are individuals and families waiting for a single meal due to loss of their livelihoods or no support system available. The government is doing its best to save these distressed families, but they cannot reach all. Here comes organisations like Vivekanand Seva Mandal (VSM) to the rescue of such people.
A national hunger helpline run by selfless volunteers of Corona Task Force has so far provided help to 7,000 individual migrant workers spread across the nation. All these people have common problem: none of the individuals have ration cards of the state PDS system as they are migrant workers. The helpline is a brainchild of Mrs. Vijayalaxmi Singh, Varanasi-based Editor of RSS-affiliated portal Sewagatha and she manages the running of this helpline and allocation of cases to various volunteers spread across the country. The helpline gets distress calls from hungry and needy people of various creed, cast, religion on their helpline from people across the country. VSM relates to this helpline for resolving cases of hunger from three main districts of Maharashtra.
The helpline shares cases from Thane, Pune, and Mumbai districts to VSM for providing grocery help. Volunteers of VSM have found a unique way of solving this crisis with the help of technology , by ensuring that no one sleeps hungry in this catastrophic situation. The task force introduced VSM to this activity of assisting the daily wage workers to get their basic right to have food without breaking the rules of lockdown.
Total 1303 people including 304 women and 771 children have been benefited by this remote helpline assistance mode, as of 04:00 pm, 17th May 2020.
It would be prudent to note here that VSM has already provided month’s groceries to two organizations having residential facilities for 129 children in Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal area. (Read this story here ). The Dombivli-based youth organisation has also offered similar help to 44 ITI students stranded in Vasar village near Kalyan (Read this story here ). A group of 20 families from Mumbai's Vikhroli region were provided with one-month food grain stock worth 18 kilograms per family during this period of nation wide lockdown. Along with VSM, three other organizations too, namely SDP, SMAP and, RSS-Janakalyan Samiti were involved in the perfect execution of this process. (Read this entire story here). Also, a total of 32 individuals from 3 divyang families from Wadavali village near Dombivli were helped with all the essential grocery items required for regular cooking. (The entire storey can be read here )
The initial verification of the needy individual is done by the Sevagatha team. Then VSM coordinators allocate the case number and a VSM volunteer is allocated with the case, who starts with the second round of verification and gathers the requisite data in VSM format. VSM volunteers help needy remotely via their homes from Dombivli, Thane and Mumbai region with the help of technology and digital payments. Volunteers are trained to adopt all the precautions before helping any person by checking his/her identity from Aadhar card, ration card, voter card etc. Volunteers at times also check their location on google maps to assist them and confirm their identity. They gather their family history and if needed make a surprise video call to verify things. Our experience is that 99% people who approached us were in genuine need of help. We are trying to kindle faith in them by serving them.
VSM volunteer then provides a standard list of groceries that is indicative and sufficient for a family of l90 request the needy to go to the nearest grocery store and ask for an e-bill from him and VSM makes the digital payment to the shopkeeper via UPI-BHIM. Thus, the successful resolution of case is achieved with extensive use of Mobile and UPI payments.
Most of the people who have approached us for help are daily wage earners, small businessmen like a cobbler, plumber, daily house workers. These are people who used to receive meagre income/salaries and have no savings. There is a standard help package created by VSM keeping a humble family in mind, but besides this we have gone out of the way to help a few. For example, an old lady was out of diabetes medicines, while another lady was pregnant and needed supplementary diet and a family wished small kids in the family be provided basic biscuits. All such requests were also honored in these critical times. Some needy have come back with a request to supply for the second term, and such cases have been also worked out. We try to provide the service as soon as possible by observing all the government lockdown norms.
People whom we have helped have expressed gratitude to such remote helpers. A family from Bhokar pada near Khopoli was almost in tears while thanking us and said even our closest relatives were not able to help us and found god's angels in helping volunteers. While doing this voluntary work the volunteers had a humbling experience . One such incident which is about a family with three children who approached us in the afternoon, and they had food for one meal only. We took up the case and solved it within 12 hours by providing them the needful food grains. The needy expressed gratitude for lending him a helping hand when he needed it the most.
Only in one place we had a problem in making the digital payment where one of our volunteers had to pay the money physically as it was in a small village near Pune. Maximum support has been laundered to people residing in Thane district as 1422 individuals from the district have been helped, while 500 individuals from Mumbai, which include cases from Miraroad, Virar to Dana bunder and 39 individuals from Pune, 26 individuals from Raigad, 8 and 6 individuals from Ahmedabad and Aurangabad respectiverly have received fortnight’s grocery from VSM. We would also like to mention that 22 children of a Sanskrit School in North Goa district were also provided with all the essential grocery items. All payments to the merchants were directly done by VSM using BHIM UPI facility.
Donor community of VSM is always with us in any projects and they have wholehearted supported this activity of supplying grocery to needy individuals.
Vivekanand Seva Mandal is committed to its motto of Seva (service) and is continuing to offer help to maximum number of needy people in this situation of complete lockdown. We will continue to do so in the coming days as we are humbly doing it now.