- Sukarma Foundation has helped over 20,000 migrants in past 70 days
- Along with food, the NGO has been distributing hygiene kits to the needy
- NGO is also helping tribal communities during the current crisis
New Delhi: With the onset of the lockdown due to COVID-19, when the news of thousands of migrant labourers moving back to their villages from various places of the country started surfacing, a team of ten volunteers of Sukarma Foundation, an NGO in Madhya Pradesh‘s Narsinghpur set up its base at the Nandner village on National Highway 22 that sees hundreds of migrants passing through it daily. Sitting day and night under a small tent on the highway, with food and hygiene kits comprising of soaps, sanitisers, sanitary napkins along with other things, these volunteers are playing the role of good Samaritans for thousands of migrant workers.
The NGO was founded in 2016 by 38-year-old Maya Vishwakarma, a former Cancer Researcher in the United States of America (USA) with an aim increase awareness on menstrual hygiene among women from tribal communities in Madhya Pradesh. Ms. Vishwakarma said that since the COVID19 crisis hit the country, the foundation has dedicated itself in providing food and essential items to lessen the pain of the migrants who have been hit worst by the ongoing pandemic. While talking about the initiative with NDTV, Ms. Vishwakarma said,
After the lockdown was imposed, we started helping the needy in the urban slums and villages in and around Narsinghpur district. We provided ration, food, medicines, sanitary pads the poor and needy. During the same time, we also set up a base on National Highway 22 and started helping the migrants who were passing from there. We are currently completely focused on providing as much support as possible to migrant labourers on the road.
As of now, the volunteers have helped over 20,000 migrant labourers in the past 70days. Because the administration did not allow them to use four-wheelers, the volunteers carried aid material on bikes and doled it out among the migrant workers as they came. Ms. Vishwakarma added,
At a local dhaba (roadside eatery), we prepare food for migrants, offer them water, medicines, ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) solution, sattu (a fine gram floor considered good for summers), footwear and sanitary pads to women migrants. Our food distribution is also open to truck drivers and other public vehicle staffers and anyone who passes by and needs food amid lockdown.
For the migrant workers, especially women and children, managing on the long and tough road to home without access to any type of amenity has been a difficulty. While talking about the challenges faced by her, Sunita Devi, a 40-year-old migrant woman who worked as a mason in Delhi and is now moving back to her village in Bihar with her four children said,
Those of you who have the privilege to protect yourself and have secured jobs are lucky people. We are left without a livelihood, no means for money, scrambling for basic needs. There was nothing left to do, so we are now going back to our village. I don’t know what will happen after reaching there but at least we will not die of hunger. Someone will help. We have been on the road for the last five days. Took lift in multiple vehicles. We have been fighting hunger, natural bodily needs like urination and the heat.
Pinki Kumari, a 23-year-old migrant woman from Jharkhand who has been travelling back to her home with her husband, two children and brother-in-law said,
I had no clue about the situation. I was very confused when my husband and brother-in-law, who worked in a factory, came home announcing that they don’t have a job anymore. While I was worried about rationing the limited food at home for a few days, they told me that the situation might not get better for a long time and they will have to go back to their village. There are many problems on the road. When they stop the truck, only then I go to pee. There are so many men in the truck and I don’t feel comfortable in telling them that I need to go the bathroom. There is nothing to feed the children also. My toddler needs milk.
Pinki further added that she and some other women in her truck go without drinking water for many hours to avoid urination.
Ms. Vishwakarma asserted that the lack of public toilets on highways is another challenge for girls and women on the road. She said,
They have no other option but to urinate behind the bushes, change pads/cloth there and even defecate in open.
She said that the group is providing soaps and sanitisers and washing area to the people on the road.
To help the social endeavours of the NGO going, it has been receiving support in terms of finances from local and NRI donors and doctors from AIIMS Delhi, where Ms. Vishwakarma worked as a scholar in the past.