As India fights against COVID-19, elders are at a higher risk of getting infected. The entire country is under lockdown, work has stopped, and people are struggling to survive, especially the elders.
HelpAge India is providing meals, dry rations and medicines to disadvantaged elders, migrant workers and daily wage earners who have no money, no work and no means to provide for themselves or their families. HelpAge is reaching out to elders and their community through its Mobile Healthcare Units and distributing meals and rations in the rural and urban areas.
NathupurBasti – Gurgaon
As the policemen at the Delhi-Gurgaon border gave us a go ahead after looking at our vehicle pass I saw the swanky Meridian Hotel of Gurgaon. The roads were wide, empty and clean and I was enjoying seeing the national capital and its surroundings like this. We took a left turn and I was caught completely off guard; there was no road and yet we were driving on, following a van carrying food. The small path led to a slum. The grand Meridien hotel was visible from here and as I got down from the vehicle I thought about how for years, the thousands of vehicles that go from Delhi to Gurgaon cross the Meridien and the passengers marvel at its visible luxury but only a handful know about the Nathupur Slums that the Meridien overlooks. Unfortunately, this is symbolic of today’s world where we all choose to look up and admire the great things, even aspire for them and ignore the uncomfortable realities.
The NathupurBasti is home to hundreds of daily wage earners and their families. They haven’t been earning any money since the lockdown has started; they depend on welfare organizations and the government for food. Vikas is a resident of the NathupurBasti, he lives there with his wife and two children; a boy and a girl. “I used to earn 400 rupees every day before the lockdown was announced, but now I don’t have any work”. When I asked him how he is feeding his family he said “Aapkejaise hi koi gaadilekeaajatahaiaurkhana de jatahai, bas aise hi chalrahahai (someone like you comes in a car and gives us food, that’s how we’re surviving)”. I had come with the HelpAge team to distribute food packets in the slum.
“I want to join the army after finishing my studies” said Shyam Sundar, a 17-year-old boy in the slum. He lives here with his parents, brother and sister-in-law; all of them work as cleaners and cooks in some of the tall buildings that house residential apartments, near the slum. Unfortunately, Shyam’s biggest problem isn’t convincing his mother to let him join the army anymore; he now has to worry about where the next meal will come from since everyone in his house is now unemployed because of the lockdown. The spark in his eyes that had come while talking about the army seemed to slowly disappear as I asked him how he is going to have his next meal.
Subhash Camp- Daskhinpuri
“Beta I don’t get pension and now because of the lockdown my son cannot earn any money; he is a daily wage earner” said an old woman in Subhash camp in Dakshinpuri. I took one of the food packets that HelpAge was distributing and gave it to her in her house. Her son is around 35 years old and her granddaughter from another son who has passed away is 18 years old. Her son is the only earning member of the family and he has lost his source of livelihood because of the lockdown. As I spoke to her I noticed the surroundings; her small house is located in a very narrow lane that can only fit one person at a time. If people are coming from opposite directions, like they usually are then they have to move sideways to make way. The concept of social distancing is therefore alien to the residents of Subhash camp.
The van with the food packages that HelpAge was providing somehow drove in to Subhash camp through the narrow and dirty lanes and stopped in front of a shop. People started gathering around, whispering to one another “lagtahaikhanamilega (looks like we’ll get food)” while others walked up to us and asked us. Their hungry eyes showed their eagerness for food but at the same time they were polite and cordial in their queries “khanamilegakya? Nahimilegatoh koi baatnahi, lekinmilegatohachharahega (will we get food? It’s fine if we don’t but it would be nice to get some)”. The residents formed a disciplined queue and 800 packets of food were distributed amongst them.
HelpAge India is providing “meals for survival” to elders, migrant workers, slum dwellers and all those who have lost their livelihood during this nationwide lockdown. The lockdown has left many people without a source of income and they are going hungry; HelpAge is distributing food to 6,000 people every day across 12 locations in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida.