Interview of the Day:
Secretary, Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan, Jhansi
Q. Jhansi was on the route of thousands of migrant labourers returning home during the outbreak of Corona virus. Wasn’t that a threat that they might be the carriers of the virus? As a social activist, what did you do in your area to avoid the infection of Corona and what is your role in it?
A. Bundelkhand has the figure of maximum migration. According to a figure more than 25,00,000 migrate to NCR and other metros in search of employement, more than three lakh of these workers got back to their homes during lock down period. We have made such labourers aware through various mediums. Government did biggest contribution in entire process . Most of the workers of Bundelkhand have entered to Bundelkhand from Jhansi, so we could communicate with them while giving food and they were advised to wash their hands frequently, take care of themselves, self-quarantine themselves, maintain social distance. The impact is visible. During lockdown period our organisation Parmarth started community kitchen, and provided food to these labourers. We could make them aware about the facilities extended to them from the local administration and also made arrangements to transport them to their villages safely. They are those who eat and earn daily, their situation was worse because of the lockdown in Basti Ward No. 31 Johar Nagar, Sakhi Pura, Hansari, Gumnavara villages. In these areas Parmarth arranged and provided more than 350 kits of ration material containing 25 kg flour , 10 kg rice, 5 kg lentil,1 liter oil , spices, salt soap etc.
Q. Would you say the intervention by the administration was enough to avert a big disaster?
A. Certainly, the lockdown because of the pandemic has had the worst impact on the poorest section of the society. Their source of livelihood is worst affected. They have no job as construction works have stopped and even many marriages have been cancelled. Corona has also adversely impacted small retailers which were the big providers of employment to the labour class at local level. Even small and marginal farmers are not able to recover their investment on their cash crop due to the shut down which has impacted their purchasing power and landed them in a struggle phase. The harvesting season for Rabi crop is on peak but farmers are quite tense about getting permission of transportation and fetch minimum support price.
Q. What kind of initiative is being taken by Society and local administration to help them out of this crisis?
A. As I closely observed in Jhansi, many social organisations have come forward to support the government and have together set up a working model to deal with disaster. Community kitchen has started in 10 divisions by Government. There is an ongoing dialogue process with the administration for full cooperation. Civil society organizations and local administration together have identified needy people and taken quick actions to provide them ration. The local administration is also praising efforts of social workers who are continuously making tireless efforts. The district administration has provided them essential duty pass and instructed them to strictly follow the guidelines. Such joint efforts have made it possible to provide food and potable water to migrant labourers who returned home in large number.
Q. What kind of impact will be on the voluntary sector due to Covid-19?
A. The image of social organizations will increase and their tireless efforts will be recognised also by the government and surely make the government reconsider its support to NGOs in coming time. No doubt, social institutions have done immediate relief work with zeal. Most of voluntary organization’s did it from their own resources.
Q. Aren’t your family members stopping you from moving out in this adverse and highly risky situation?
A. Definitely, this is a very tough time, when you have simultaneously address your social obligations and family concerns. I have to strike a balance as it is my social duty to contribute my bit to the deprived section of society. At the same time it is my primary duty to also take care of my family. However, my experience of more than 25 years in development sector helped me convince my family members about my responsibility to address the need of affected community of Bundelkhand. Still, while doing this work, we have to face many challenges, but the mind is very satisfied that we are also working for people in such a difficult time.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. The future plan is to develop more and more livelihood resources and work with the government on long-term basis to prevent migration from Bundelkhand. People are trained to keep the environment fit to deal with such epidemics. In this direction, we will train the youth of the region on skill development through which they can start earning. The more immediate task is to train women and youth on making sanitizers and masks and they have to be engaged in this work. People have to be aware and aware of rights as well as duty.