As India tries to recover some of its normalcy and sanity with the Covid vaccination drive taking off in a big way, pictures of last year’s unprecedented lockdown continue to haunt our memories.
The whole country was placed under a complete lockdown since March 2020, due to (an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered Coronavirus, according to WHO) that had started spreading across the world and had entered India.
But even as Prime Minister Modi once again took people by surprise by starting his address to the nation at 8 pm on March 24 an NGO called Prayas was on its toes.
By 8.10 Amod Kanth, the Founder General Secretary of Prayas running 38 shelter homes in Delhi and offices in 9 states and UTs,was in action because he had anticipated what was going to happen.
Amod Kanth,General Secretary ,Prayas
His instructions to his senior staff were clear and precise,”Collect you clothes and items of daily use and reach the office promises and be prepared for a long stay.” Being a former police officer, he knew that from next day getting passes for movement was going to be tough.
Run by 700 plus professionals, Prayas directly serves nearly 40,000 beneficiaries including children, youth and women across the nation.
It has a special responsibility towards the children and youth living in its own 38 Children Homes/Shelters/Observation Home/Special Training Centres/Railway Shelters/Open Shelters.
All shops, factories malls, cinema halls,offices, banks, schools,colleges were ordered to be closed from midnight.
The worst hit were dhabas, roadside eateries,daily wage earners, rehriwalas and construction workers who were left jobless.
Here it must be mentioned that another organisation which was on its toes by March 26 was the NITI Aayog, whose tenacious leaders Vice President Rajiv Kumar and its dynamic CEO Amitabh Kant worked round the clock to to ensure that the 90k plus CSOs registered on its Darpan Portal were galvanised into action to work alongside the the government to protect and provide for the thousands of migrants, jobless and homeless hit by this pandemic.Kanth, by virtue of his position as the Joint Secretary of the NITI Standing Committee for the CSOs was also actively involved in this.
This placed Prayas in a position where it was actively involved in the strategizing and engagement of service delivery organizations towards tackling COVID-19.This was done through the High-level Committee for Engagement of Private Sector, International Organisations, CSOs / NGOs and other Development Partners, under the Chairmanship ofAmitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog.
And so while the whole country was confined to their homes, there was no holiday for the Prayas staff that worked relentlessly to support the efforts of the government and the civil society by ensuring availability of cooked food and dry rations to a large number of stranded population who could not reach their destination (especially contractual labourers,daily wage workers, rickshaw pullers, construction workers, street vendors, manual scavengers, brick kiln workers, workers working in small repair shops, roadside eatery workers, security guards etc).
On an average, the Prayas Team reached out to more than 4000 people per day by serving them hot cooked food as well as dry rations and hygiene kits across the country.
In the last one year Prayas has reached out to over 3,50,000 people and servedthem freshly cooked food.
The CHILDLINE 1098 (24×7) Team of Prayas functioning at six locations, New Delhi Railway Station, Janhagirpuri, Bawana (Delhi), Raxaul and Samastipur (Bihar) and Andaman & Nicobar Islands also supported distressed children along with their families during the ongoing COVID-19 in the vulnerable areas of Delhi, Bihar and Andaman & Nicobar Islands with dry rations, sanitary pads and PPE kits.
More than others, Prayas felt the direct impact of the increasing incidence of child abuse across all the six locations and attended to distress calls of violenceexperienced either first-hand or on behalf of child survivors,as lockdown left children confined to their homes.
During the crisis the Prayas Jan Shikshan Sansthan, (JSS) at Delhi and Bihar also worked closely with the communities by reaching out to large marginalized and vulnerable families with ‘Family Kits’ and ‘Hygiene Kits’ consisting of 10 kg of wheat, 10 kg of Rice, Pulses, Spices, Salt, Sugar, Tea Packet, Edible Oil, Bathing Soap, Face Masks, Sanitizers and gloves to ensure that none of the families were left out.
Prayas participated in a series of Meeting of the Committee to interact with the Private Sector, Development Partners and International Organisations through Video Conferencing through March and April.
During its emergency operations at Delhi Operational at Delhi Prayas running 19 Children Home/ Shelters in Delhi, including Open Shelters for Children and Homeless it provided food to about 3500-4000 homeless/daily wage workers every day.
The beneficiaries also included hundreds of migrants and others stranded in Delhi due to the on-going nationwide lock down. Prayas served more than 6.3 million cooked meals in just three months.
Supporting vulnerablecommunities in Delhi, mostly comprising daily wage labourers and migrant workers rendered jobless, Prayas team supplied rations to communities in Sangam Vihar, Tigri, Anand Parbat, Bawana, Jahangirpuri, Badli, Govindpuri, Kalkaji, Kirti Nagar, Navjeevan Camp, Bengali Camp, RK Puram, Okhla, GB Road etc.
During this crisis situation Prayas also partnered with Ernst & Young Foundation, Delhi Police, CHILDLINE 1098 and Carrot Films and reached out to 17000 migrants along with their families at Old Delhi Railway Stations and provided them cooked food, water bottles, fruits and biscuits where they were eating to board the ‘SHRAMIK EXPRESS’.
Last but not the least, Prayas during this crisis also extended its support to more than one thousand commercial sex workers living in the red light area of Delhi, known as Grant Bastion Road (Shraddha Nand Marg) who were severely affected by the COVID -19 pandemic lockdown.
They were provided ‘Family Ration Kits’ and Hygiene Kits.The pandemic has deeply affected their livelihood but like every one they also have the right to live a life with dignity.