As the Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting nation-wide lockdown continues to put the economy in crisis, the poorest of the poor are the worst-hit. The country has already witnessed mass exodus of daily wage labourers, mostly immigrants from villages working in metro cities, having to walk hundreds of kilometres to their homes. Similarly, starvation is rising among the homeless, especially children, as well as ragpickers, who are denied of their livelihoods.
Although State governments have taken up initiatives to help the poor, good Samaritan civilians have also been doing their best to help each other. However, among the millions who are not even getting attention from the mainstream charitable platforms are sex-workers and their families.
Now, an initiative called ‘1 million meals’ aims to help them survive this crisis by providing food and other essential items. It is organised by Apne Aap, an NGO founded by journalist-turned-activist Ruchira Gupta. They are at the forefront of reaching out to women and children in red light areas who are stuck without food, living in cage-like rooms with not even running water.
It was just three days into the lockdown that the organisation – which fights against human trafficking – received its first call for help. The NGO claims to have immediately distributed 5,000 cooked meals, following which it served 245,074 meals to 4,896 women and 6,098 children in two months, across Delhi, Bihar, and Kolkata.
Their aim is to serve 1.1 million meals (that is 20,000 meals per day till the lockdown is lifted) and hygiene products to 2,500 women and 7,500 children in the red-light areas in these three regions. Through volunteers, they have also managed to distribute essential items like sanitary pads, medicines, and soap, to this community. The NGO is trying to raise $1 million to this regard, as the price of every meal and hygiene kit for a family is about $1.