Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire world is grappling with the health tragedy. The situation initially seemed under control, but later the fury the pandemic created has left the world into shackles. Every country is trying to level its best to get the situation under control. Though things seem far from normal at present, the efforts that have been made have helped put many things in place. Now the world is planning to live under the “New Normal”.
The pandemic, apart from creating a health emergency, has also put the countries in a tight spot as it has created a dire situation in terms of economic hardships. Many people have perished to hunger; many have lost their livelihood and are struggling to go to sleep with a full stomach. It seems that more than the pandemic, it is hunger which is taking a toll on the lives of many people. Moreover, the mental trauma it has caused is affecting the livelihood of many families. In developing countries, where a significant section of the population is dependent on primary activities like agriculture or have migrated to different cities in search of a job, the situation has become very critical. The daily wage earners who are the sole breadwinners of their families have been the worst sufferers. In these times of destitution and despair, many organizations have come forward to help these people with food rations and other necessities.
Upay, an organization working in the field of education to replace begging bowls with the books, has been one of the front warriors to help these people in various ways. The members and volunteers have shown exemplary resolve in this pandemic.
It was 25th March 2020 when the lockdown was announced in India for 20 days. There was hustle bustle all over in the country. The metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore saw the worst contingencies. There was a sudden exodus of thousands of migrants from these cities. With all the transport networks crippled, they took up the resolve to walk to their hometown.
Varun Srivastava, the chairman of UPAY, witnessed a family with a six-month-old baby walking on foot to reach Jharkhand. It was a harrowing sight that left him startled. It was just one of the many desolate stories which he came across. Not much to surprise, there was another incident that caught the attention of the Zonal Director of Gurugram, Akhil Mahajan. He shared an incident where a migrant family from Bihar residing at Wazirabad in Gurugram was facing a hard time to get food. At first, the head of the family sold his phone to get money to feed his hungry children. But he couldn’t hold long in unprecedented melancholy, and he committed suicide succumbing to the situation.
All such incidents raised many questions that had no answers. Most profound amongst them was that who is coming to help these families. It called for some action to be taken so that all such people could be reached out and helped. On 27th March, UPAY started its mission to fight this situation at various fronts. It began with the distribution of cooked meals to all migrant workers who had left to reach their homes. At the same time, ration kits were distributed to many families who barely had anything to feed themselves. Kits were distributed to all the zones of UPAY in Delhi, Gurugram, Bangalore, Nagpur, Pune, and Mauda. Apart from its zones, UPAY also extended its support to other cities of the country from where the help was sought.
Neetu Mishra, The Zonal Director of Nagpur Zone, narrated about her quest for the Covid-19 situation. She realized that many people at UPAY’s center were not fully aware of the despondent situation COVID-19 had created. She took the initiative and ensured that they were made aware of the precautionary measures which they as an individual were required to take to protect themselves and their families from this deadly disease. With the help of volunteers, Nagpur Zone has distributed – ration kits till the date, and the process is still underway.
With all these activities acing, UPAY decided to take one step further and came up with the initiative to provide livelihood opportunities to the daily wage workers. Under its flagship skill development initiative, SAMARTH, UPAY is providing stitching training to many women so that they can become future entrepreneurs. Harsha, Zonal Director of Bangalore Zone, described the enthusiasm which the women at the zone displayed when they were asked to stitch masks for distribution to the affected people. Although this move has its inherent challenges, the production process was put in place, and masks were produced in large quantities. These masks were distributed to all the beneficiary families under UPAY’s various programs. At the same time, the women got a source of income in tough times and were able to sustain their families. Henceforth, the mask production process was put in all the zones of UPAY. These masks have also been put up for sale at the e-commerce portal of UPAY- Sabkasamman.com.
Pune was one of the worse hit cities with coronavirus outbreak. The city had one of the most significant numbers of active cases in the country. The people were severely hit with the loss of livelihood, disease, and lack of food. Within three days of lockdown announcement, the UPAY Pune team started getting distress calls from the centers telling the plight due to lockdown. UPAY Pune team did not leave any stone unturned and started planning the relief work. It arrived in touch with many organizations that were working with similar goals. With the help of the Atharwani Foundation, the underprivileged people were approached, and a campaign was organized. Through this campaign, relief work was started, and dry rations and essential commodities were provided to the families.
It was a heart-wrenching moment for the organization when it came to the notice of the organization that the doctors, nurses, and the non-medical staff who were at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus were not having proper medical gears. UPAY stepped in and procured N95 masks and supplied them to the hospitals. It used its all resources to take the fight head-on against coronavirus.
The Mouda zone led by Ankit Bagla has one of the most significant numbers of beneficiaries associated with UPAY. He, along with his team, has successfully distributed ration kits to all the associated families. He extended a heartfelt thank you to NTPC, which made sincere efforts and helped reach all those in need.
The situation was equally gloomy in the National Capital Region, which was hit with similar intensity as the rest of the major metropolitan areas. Having one of the largest migrant populations, the plight of the migrant families was no less than the worst nightmare. They were running from pillar to post to earn food for a day.
Mithila Malhotra, The Zonal Director of Delhi Zone, received a distress call from one of the family at Tilak Nagar center. Reiterating the situation, she described that some family had not eaten anything for the last few days. With the help of the UPAY Delhi team, all the beneficiaries under UPAY’s umbrella were provided immediate relief through the distribution of ration kits. Apart from this, it reached to many low-income families suffering from the unprecedented catastrophe coronavirus has brought to them. There were hundreds of distress calls that were received and resolved daily. To handle a large number of distress calls and provide the necessary support, a team of Zonal Operating Officers of all the zones was formed. After giving them the provisions of relief temporarily, UPAY got these families registered on the Government e-ration portal to help people in the longer run.
It has been 66 days since the lockdown started. UPAY has reached out to around 40000 beneficiaries who received rations, cooked meals, masks, and other reliefs. At present, it is engaged with many organizations- NGOs, PSUs, and Corporates to extend support to depressed families. Through its association with Rivigo Foundation in Delhi, it has supplied cooked meals, masks, and other essentials to truck drivers for 15 days. With its association with NTPC, NSPCL, and NVVN, it has distributed 350 ration kits to around 350 families in different parts of Delhi.
With the help of the Indian School of Business, UPAY has reached out to 100 families and provided them ration support.
In one of the most effective associations, the Bangalore team tied up with the Give India Foundation and distributed 1000 ration kits in different areas of Bangalore. Similar ventures are going in other parts of the country as well with the help of MECL, NTPC Ladies Club, etc.
UPAY has a primary focus area of education. It mainly conducts classes for the slum and street children near their areas of residence. Due to COVID-19, the normal operations got hit badly, and the classes could not be carried out. To keep the vision of the organization intact, UPAY came up with online classes for these children. It started as a pilot project in all its zones. At present, the classes are being conducted at the zones with the help of center coordinators.
In this time of crisis, the resilience and strong will that has been displayed by the UPAY team speaks for itself. The dedicated volunteers of UPAY never backed down in the challenging situation and led the fight with a resolve to reach and help all in distress.
We did it before, and We will do it in the future
We will lend a hand, to help grow and nurture,
It is a challenging and strenuous situation
But with helping hands so strong,
We resolve to fight the invasion.
We never gave up, we never will do so
Together we all will unite to end the pandemic row.
– Mithila Malhotra