Citizens for Justice and Peace

CJP steps in to help members of an impoverished nomadic tribe Supplies rations to the Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj spread across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane

07, May 2020 | CJP Team

When the national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus started, it had a disproportionately harder impact on people hailing from socio-economically backward communities. People belonging to historically oppressed and marginalized communities, castes and tribes were some of the worst affected. One such group comprised members of the Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj who were pushed to the brink of starvation in Mumbai. But sworn to protecting and defending the rights of all Indians, CJP swung into action and ensured that help reached everyone, even if they belonged to a micro-community.

What is the Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj?

The Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj is a nomadic tribe from Maharashtra. While they have a rich culture, the tribe is extremely economically backward with many members living in abject poverty. Members of the community who live in and around Mumbai work as daily wage earners, many women make a living standing outside temples with cows offering people the chance to worship cows before they enter the temple. Some women also work as domestic helps. Many members of the community are also forced to beg for a living. Needless to say, when the lockdown began, their sources of income dried up quickly and people faced an uncertain future.

That’s when Haree Digambar Jagtap, president of the Maharashtra Prantik Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj Sanstha and a senior member of the community who is engaged in social work, found out about how CJP was distributing rations and essentials to the needy and contacted us.

“It is the women who earn money in most households using what they earned on a daily basis and when the lockdown started they could not even feed their children who would cry out because of hunger,” says Jagtap.

The nationwide lockdown has adversely impacted the livelihood of daily-wage earners and people in low-income jobs. Families of thela-wallas, taxi and auto rickshaw drivers, vegetable vendors, carpenters, scrap purchasers, delivery boys, waiters, domestic helps, people with HIV/AIDS, transgender persons, sex workers, orphans and destitute people need our urgent help to tide over the COVID crisis. CJP has partnered with several like-minded organisations to provide ration and essential supplies to over 5,000 such families across the Mumbai Metropolitan region. We urge you to donate generously so that nobody goes to bed hungry.

CJP overcomes challenges to serve the community

CJP immediately swung into action and made arrangements for ration kits to be delivered all across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane to various ‘bastis’ and pockets were community members lived.

Teesta Setalvad, secretary CJP explains, “CJP, since its inception, has been committed to reaching out to all Indians in need, especially during crisis situations. In 2005 when Mumbai was hit by unprecedented floods, the CJP and Sabrang team had worked towards providing relief and rehabilitation to all communities across the greater Mumbai region. This time too, the moment the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown was announced, we saw how this could mean hunger and starvation for many of our fellow city dwellers. We established contact with several groups and communities. It is through that process that we were approached by the Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj and we have done what we can to reach out. We also hope in the months and years to come to work together on matters of livelihood, health and education rights.”

Our first consignment of 100 ration kits was delivered to members of the community living in Mograpada and Shivaji Nagar in Andheri East on April 12.

But we faced a minor hurdle when we tried to distribute our next batch at Sai Baba Nagar in Andheri East. “The area had been sealed off and residents were desperate for food. Police was not allowing anyone to enter or leave the containment zone, so when people heard about ration distribution, more than 200 of them came out on the street. But we did not have enough packets for everyone. Also, given how absence of social distancing posed a threat of spreading the infection, we were forced to reschedule our distribution,” says Haree Jagtap who was working closely with CJP volunteers ensure proper delivery and distribution of all consignments.

Deliveries of 100 ration kits were finally made on April 14 to members of the community not only in Sai Baba Nagar, but also in Sai Dham in Jogeshwari. “This time we entered from a different part of the neighbourhood to avoid crowding. I drove the tempo myself as the driver was unwell and parked at a distance from the area. Then the delivery volunteers carried supplies on their backs and walked the last half kilometer to personally hand-deliver the food packets to some of the poorest and neediest families. Some women shed tears and blessed us. It was very emotional,” recalls Jagtap.

One of the beneficiaries was 50-year-old Kalavati Shinde, who originally hails from Satara and has been living in Mumbai for 20 years. “I sit outside Parleshwar Mandir with a cow and animal-feed and people pay to worship the cow. That’s how I earn my livelihood. However, since the lockdown this has stopped and I am unable to earn. The help from CJP came at a critical time since I live with my two sons who have also not been able to work since the lockdown,” she says.

In another round of deliveries on April 16 we were able to serve 100 more families spread across Dawari Nagar Vakola, Datta Mandir road, Vakola, Golibar Road, Khar East, Tunga Powai and Morarji Mill Compound, Goregaon East.

Our next batch of deliveries took place on May 1 and 2 across a more far-flung geography; Mulund, Diva, Thane, Sion- Wadala, Mahul Gaon and Kharghar. This is where we encountered few more challenges. “When we went to make deliveries at Navghar Road MHADA Colony in Mulund and Station Road in Diva, both these areas had been sealed off as coronavirus cases had been reported from these areas. So, in both places, we coordinated with local rickshaw drivers and requested them to come with their vehicles to the highway. Here we loaded their rickshaws with relief supplies and one volunteer boarded the vehicle to ensure supplies reached the people who were actually in need. If asked, they just said they were making home-deliveries of rations for people who had placed orders from a departmental store on the neighbourhood. This way we could go and make deliveries to the poorest of the poor without being turned away. It took more than one trip in Mulund and two round-trips in Diva to make the deliveries,” explains Jagtap.

Similar arrangements were made in Mahul Gaon near Chembur that is home to some of the most underprivileged members of the community. It is not only in a Covid-19 containment zone, but was basically uninhabitable even before the pandemic due to the high levels of pollutants and toxins in the air in the area.

The latest batch of 100 ration kits is all set to be delivered yet again to people in high-risk containment zones in and around Prateeksha Nagar, Sion, Chembur and hopefully even Dharavi. Here are a few pictures of deliveries made to members of the Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj.

Here are a few pictures of deliveries made to members of the Nathpanthi Dawari Gosavi Samaj.

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