People in India, until two weeks ago, were running pillar to post to procure oxygen cylinders, ICU beds, plasma, medicines for their loved ones. Citizens across the nation opened up COVID resources to help those in need. With the help of social media many people were able to get their hands on the required resources. However, slowly the resources started exhausting. Nevertheless, the citizens of the nation went on to test their limits and are still dedicated to helping the countless men and women suffering because of the pandemic.
Apart from this what gained attention was lending a helping hand to the frontline workers. Frontline workers across the globe have dedicated their lives to save people, health workers, poll officers, police, etc. But what about the workers from the unorganized sector?
Working communities like that of the ‘crematorium workers’ are not considered as frontline workers. These individuals are risking their lives to give a dignified end to those who have lost their lives to Covid19. Unfortunately, the crematorium workers are an ostracized part of the population as most of them belong to the lowest socio-economic strata of Indian society. Even though they have risked their lives, thy and their works are unacknowledged, they are underpaid, they have to work double shifts, and they are unvaccinated.
As this pandemic has ravaged the entire world, there are few people who have chosen to show a ray of hope to the most improvised and disadvantaged in these terrible times.
The “Good Food Project” (GFP) - an initiative to feed crematorium workers, was started by two young professionals - Nandini Ghosh and Shray Gupta in the National Capital Region. This unplanned initiative, started in mid May, as Nandini and Shray decided to venture out with around 100 food packets and went straight to Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium.
The conditions in which the workers were performing their duties were appalling. No proper meals, no vaccination, no safety gear - nothing.
“We were shocked to see how the workers were risking their lives to give dignified last rites to those who died due to COVID, the helplessness made us wonder that we should be doing something for people who might need us, hence Shray and I started this project.” - Nandini Ghosh, Management Consultant, Founder of GFP
Soon after coming back from the field, Nandini along with Shray, started a fundraiser to provide free meals to crematorium workers. Within 48 hours they raised over INR 15 Lakh. People from across the globe came forward to kick start the GFP initiative to cater to the crematorium workers. It’s been less than a month and the initiative has more than 70 volunteers, who are working on field and online.
Up to now, the GFP has managed to deliver 20,000 meals, 25,000 ORS/lassi/juices, 12,000 masks and more than 400 liters of sanitizer to over 25 crematoriums and burial grounds across Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida in just under 20 days.
“We have now decided to take our initiative further. We want it to spread to other parts of the country as well, especially our hinterland, where resources and help are hard to come by. We want to reach out to low-income individuals and families who have lost livelihoods, sole earning family members, and significant chunks of their wages. They already form the lowest rung of India's socio-economic fabric.” - Nandini Ghosh, Founder of GFP
Many such initiatives have been started to help the deprived across the nation. In Bengaluru, a group of volunteers are helping families to arrange burials. “Here I Am” is a group of volunteers who constitute the Covid Last Rites and Funeral Squad Team under Bangalore Archdiocese. They give burials keeping in mind the COVID protocols. ‘Here I Am’ has arranged around 1,400 burials since the second wave hit Bengaluru.
“We have 60 to 70 volunteers who are divided into four zones and placed in different cemeteries. They pack the bodies, collect them from hospitals or homes and take them to the cemetery for burial. We also provide free ambulance service. And for the underprivileged, we also try to arrange coffins. We pay the diggers too." - Rev. Father Rajesh, Assistant Director of Here I Am, told NDTV.
Initiatives like these have been arising since India was severely hit by the second wave. The government’s complacency after the first wave has been the major factor that India is dealing with such high rates of infection and deaths. These initiatives are here to help fight such complacency. Please consider supporting your local and national initiatives.