09, May 2021 | CJP Team
With a finger on the pulse of India’s Covid-19 crisis, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has adapted its various campaigns to connect with vulnerable communities on ground and help-seeking individuals on social media.
“This time CJP is concentrating on working with communities where we do rights work; in east Uttar Pradesh, Sonbhadra and Assam. This apart from hunger alleviation in the MMR region and Covid-19 prevention awareness initiatives with Mumbai’s administration as well as crisis intervention,” said CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad while recounting the organisations efforts in the five short months of 2021.
Most recently, members of CJP and fellows engaged in awareness camps to inform migrant labourers and rural masses about the severe threat of the virus. In Harishpur, Bhimpur, Kashimdanga, Madanpuri, Harharia, North Ramachandrapur villages of West Bengal’s Birbhum district, CJP volunteers have been carrying out such programmes on behalf of the Bangla Sanskriti Manch for the past 10 days.
“Birbhum has become one of the worst-affected areas in the state. People here have started to panic which is why, we, the youth, participate in these awareness programmes to tell people about what measures to take. We also distribute masks and sanitisers amongst people,” said CJP fellow Ripon Sheikh, who has been working tirelessly in this region.
However, these supplies are hard to come by in recent times. Sheikh has to visit various stores and shops before he has enough supplies to distribute among camp attendees. Medicines are especially hard to come by. Even CJP fellow Dr Muniza Khan struggled to find required medicines such as paracetamol strips for the upcoming awareness programme in Banaras.
Currently, CJP offers two kits: a Family Kit containing soap, masks and paracetamol strips and a Mohallah Kit with an oximeter, thermometer, and other things for community centres. With funds, CJP has managed to offer 2000 family kits – each requiring a funding of around Rs. 200 – and 10 Mohallah kits – each requiring Rs. 10,440 – for the Purvanchal region in Uttar Pradesh.
Moreover, this is only the first phase of a long-term plan to provide around 800-1200 Family Kits and 10 Mohallah Kits throughout the area. An important demographic for this are weavers, semiskilled labour, Dalits, Malhars and OBC communities in Purvanchal.
Earlier this year CJP conducted a fact-finding mission that looked into the Covid-19 lockdown impact on the weaving industry of Purvanchal. With reference to this data, Dr Khan determined five locations in Varanasi, one in Rajghat, another in Ghazipur and a few in Jaunpur’s Patela village. More towns and villages have also been determined. “However, the team will begin distribution once the first order arrives, hopefully by May 10,” said Dr Khan.
However, with more funds from well-wishers and good Samaritans CJP hopes to produce more such kits in similar regions as these kits are the need of the hour as per Dr. Khan and Sheikh’s accounts.
Both volunteers, working in labourer-populated areas, confirmed that people are either ill-informed about the impact and spread of Covid-19 or are simply too scared to enter hospitals to get themselves tested.
Medical stores, even wholesale shops, in and around Banaras do not have the required medicines, while those that do refuse to sell large amounts of strips to one buyer. At one point, Dr. Khan said a shopkeeper demanded above MRP prices for medicines.
Meanwhile, people are altogether ignorant about social distancing or the proper method of wearing masks even at vaccination centres. Further village centres do not have necessary tools such as oximeters or nebulisers: thus the need to invest more in Mohallah and Family kits arises.
“On the other hand, the work for the Vishnath temple is continuing here. Labourers are still working despite the growing Covid-19 crisis,” she said.
Citing similar conditions, Sheikh said the condition in Birbhum worsened to a point where families are scared to touch bodies of Covid-19 patients. In an effort to address this, members have started a helpline in 12 districts of West Bengal that will offer relevant information regarding availability of oxygen cylinders, hospital beds and similar information. Two persons have died due to lack of oxygen cylinders over the course of the last few days.
With more help CJP can work towards a more focused plan and strengthen its reach to parts of Assam with the help of local organisations.
Despite the lack of funds, members have found innovative ways to fight Covid-19 and its many-headed evils. For example, the team sensing the evolving situations, began a data verification initiative that critically looked at the various information floating on social media regarding the virus.
Doing away with harmful misinformation, CJP compiled useful links and contacts that can be used across India to avail hospital beds or tiffin services as well as ambulances. CJP’s multi language booklet on Home Management of Covid, verified by medical professionals, will soon be also distributed through the wards of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The well illustrated and easy to read booklet is already available in Marathi, Hindi, Bengali and English and will soon be available in Assamese, Kannada, Urdu, Oriya, Telugu, Tamil among others.
In order to offer some solace Covid-19 patients under home isolation, the CJP team explained quarantine guidelines in three multiple languages for people to comprehend and manage their symptoms. The pamphlet also talks about the do’s and don’ts while isolating, types of nutrition the body requires, medicines that could help with the symptoms, medically approved body positions to monitor oxygen levels, ideas to manage Covid-19 anxiety and most importantly, highlighting the importance of consulting a doctor before self-medicating.
While last year, CJP strived and succeeded in distributing ration to migrant workers and minority communities in Mumbai’s Metropolitan Region, this year, the team focused its service towards three organisations. It may be noted that in 2020 over 40,000 families availed CJP’s food packages.
This year again requests for food from organisations and communities that we had worked with last year have come in. Currently we are helping Prayaas Ek Koshish an organiastion that reaches out to HIV-infected and transgender communities, Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj that helps Maharashtra’s nomadic tribes and Hamari Silai that interacts with fishing communities.
Through continued efforts, CJP has reached out to the unsung workforce and real economic backbone of India. As the community grows with more volunteers and trailblazers, we aim to grow bigger and help overcome Covid-19 as well as our other long term initiatives. Citizens eager to do their bit are welcome to join CJP’s Volunteer Group or support CJP through donations.