BY SFOORTI MISHRA
New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) As the highly contagious novel coronavirus disease has confined the people of India within the four walls of their houses, life of the marginalised people working in the unorganised sector has become a nightmare. With no fixed monthly income and no house of their own, they live more in a fear of dying of starving than the pandemic. In such distressed times, a 22-year-old Noida woman Arushi Vaishnav has been like a blessing to such people. She has raised Rs 1,30,000 for the poor without any crowdfunding or social media campaign.
An Economics postgraduate dual degree student in the University of Nottingham, the UK and in University of Tuebingen in Germany, Vaishnav came to India on February 20 to visit her family before the pandemic outbreak in the country, but could not go back to join her studies in Germany as all the international flights were suspended. During the nationwide lockdown, she saw heart wrenching pictures, videos and news of the poor people struggling for their needs, as basic as two meals. The girl was moved and hence decided to help them.
“I felt really bad about the underprivileged people who lost their jobs in this lockdown as they work in the unorganized sector. Having no income and yet having expenditures has been extremely tough for them. Unlike us, they cannot work from home, or have any savings to rely on. During this crisis, they are struggling to get even one meal at times,” Arushi Vaishnav told IANS.
She requested her family and close friends from India, the US, the UK and Germany to donate any amount equivalent to the cost of their one meal. Initially, she made a target of helping five families in her surroundings, but with the overwhelming response of her friends she has been able to help at least 12 families in buying ration, paying their house rent and other necessary expenses.
“I started raising funds by contacting my friends from India, Germany, the US and the UK to help as many families as I could. The idea behind it was that the cost of a meal abroad could mean at least three basic meals for a person in need in India. Initially, my target was to help five families but I could help around 12 families. I am so thankful for the generous donations that I received from my friends, especially from Germany. I was able to raise around Rs 1.3 Lakh in 15 days” she told IANS.
Most people she has helped so far, work as domestic helps, gardeners, cobblers, auto drivers, cook, local electrician, etc. Before extending the help Arushi ensured if the people whom she was helping, were in need genuinely so that help could be provided to people who needed it the most. “I conducted a small interview with the families before telling them about the fundraiser, about their life before and after the lockdown. Then I distributed the funds according to the number of family members and their needs,” she said.
Vaishnav also wisely ensured that while extending the help, her family members and she were not at risk of getting exposed to the virus. “As I live with my family and also wanted to be safe, I donated directly in cash or bank transfers,” she told IANS, adding, “I am happy that I could help a bit, and I plan to continue to do so,” she also distributes food packets to the labourers on the roadside.
(Sfoorti Mishra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)