India, in her bid to flatten the curve, what has she not seen, what is she not undergoing! While India remains in lockdown since 24th March 2020, a lot has changed for the poor and needy. For them, life has come to a standstill. The pandemic has brought with it, to the surface, larger issues; of helplessness, of homelessness and of hunger! Stranded in the scorching heat, displaced and penniless, the sufferings of the daily-wage workers is indeed a pitiable sight. Severely affected are also those dependent on the earning of a single member of a family and whose bread-winner is a migrant in another state. The differently-abled, blind, deaf and mute, special persons and senior citizens have their own woeful story to narrate.
Sadhu Vaswani Mission located centrally, near the Pune Railway Station, is a witness to this stark reality every day! How the labourers wait in anticipation for a packet of biscuits, a packet of chiwda and a bottle of water!
With the limitations the pandemic has imposed; of distributing only packaged items and strict adherence to social distancing; distributing and identifying is no easy task. However, the Sadhu Vaswani Mission’s volunteers, in compliance and coordination with the local authorities, are helped in identifying such locations and shelters.
The Mobile Vans of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, with due permissions, reaches out to both nearby and far-fetched locations in the city and distributes chiwda, banana, biscuits and water to as many as possible. “It brings relief to the stranded when they see our van. Waiting for one meal in this manner is a miserable place to be in for anyone. And it is no less than painful to see people waving down our van and calling out for water!” said a Mission official.
Simultaneously, of the 16 wards in Pune City, several localities — Dhole Patil Shelter home, Ghorpadi hutment areas, 2 Kms radius of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Aundh, Ghole Road, Bibwewadi, Swargate, Wanowrie, Kasba Peth, Yeolwadi, Punawale, Kothrud, Warje, Undri, Shikrapur, Lepers Colony, Faraskhana, Mangalwar Peth, Budhwar Peth, Manjri Village, Circuit House, Dandekar Pool, Baner, Pashan, Sus Road, Sassoon Road, Maldhaka, Khadi Machine, have been catered to. In these areas, families with dependents such as differently-abled, blind, deaf and mute, senior citizens have been provided ration kits that include wheat flour, rice, dal, pulses, suji, sugar, tea powder, poha and cooking oil. Every ration kit includes hygiene packets that contain soap and toothpaste. 3202 ration kits have been distributed. A ration kit lasts for 10 days and is sufficient for three meals a day for a family of four.
“Every day, a team carries out surveys in different localities and we run it through the authorities and reach out to them. Of the many sevas, the seva we carried out in the lepers’ colony in Kondhwa was agonising. They had lost all hopes. Even after the survey, they were dicey of any relief reaching them but within an hour after permissions, we distributed ration kits to 400 families. Their happiness, more so the respite we saw on their faces remains unforgettable. We pray that we may reach out to more such people in need!” says a volunteer.
“Another seva that was almost tear-jerking was the one carried out in Budhwar Peth. The area was deserted and the dwellers were waiting for some help to reach them. Ration kits were distributed here and their eyes had just one question, “what after this?” We gave them all assurance that they will be helped until such time as need prevails,” said another volunteer.
A volunteer narrating another experience of an old lady, living in a 75 sqft house, he had the opportunity to serve said, “A senior citizen, recipient of rations, had tears in her eyes. ‘You have come to us in the form of God,’ she said. The lady was immobile with her husband as her caretaker and her son, a watchman, had recently passed away. It was a painful sight to watch but the fortitude she had was commendable.”
Likewise, the local authorities have also created ‘Shelter Homes’, across the city to lodge the migrants. Of these, Sadhu Vaswani Mission has adopted shelter homes at Undri-Kondhwa and Dhole Patil Road.
While breakfast includes tea biscuits / bun pav / dal bread / poha /upma / sabudana khicdi, khari, banana and chiwda, lunch meals include dal, rice / pulav, roti, subzi and pickle. Volunteers make several trips to meet the hunger needs of the people.
Sadhu Vaswani Ashram is busy all day. 15 volunteers cook meals at the ashram and 20 volunteers are engaged in distribution activities. “The seva starts as early as 6:00 am. While one team leaves with a mobile van, another leaves for the shelter. Tea and breakfast have to reach the shelter as soon as the lodgers wake up. We leave the Mission by 6:00 am and make sure that they receive a filling breakfast and are not kept waiting. Lunch van is ready to leave at 1:00 pm,” says another silent worker of the Mission. “The Mission vans are disinfected twice daily and volunteers wear headgears, masks, gloves at all times during seva and meal preparations,” he added.