- Bharti, a student of class 8 has stitched and distributed over 200 masks
- Bharti attends support classes at NGO Chintan
- She learnt about COVID-19 and measures to avoid transmission at Chintan
New Delhi: “Stepping out without masks may put anyone at the risk of getting infected. In order to avoid such risky situations, I wish that everyone must wear a mask. That’s why I have started stitching masks myself so that I can help those who cannot buy masks,” says 12-year-old Bharti Kumari who has been stitching masks and distributing them to people living in her area to shield them from the coronavirus. Bharti lives in a colony near Bhalswa landfill in Rajiv Nagar, Delhi and spends about two hours every day on making masks. So far, Bharti has distributed over 200 masks among people and has taken it upon herself to support the members of her locality in putting up a fight against COVID-19 and become a ‘Good Samaritan’ for them.
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The daughter of 38-year-old Ramjeet Tiwari and 33-year-old Maya Devi who collect and segregate waste for an aggregator at Bhalswa, attends support classes at the informal learning centre of an NGO named Chintan that works towards the issues of waste pickers and waste management. Bharti, who is currently studying in Standard 8, got to understand about coronavirus and measures to avoid the transmission at Chintan.
In her efforts to make masks, her 15-year-old brother Deen Bandhu contributed with his research skills and knowledge. He researched online about masks making, provided Bharti with cloth and threads and also got the unused sewing machine at home repaired. Once stitched completely, Bharti’s mother helps her wash the masks properly with detergent.
According to Chitra Mukherjee, head of advocacy and policy at Chintan, Bharti understands that the senior citizens are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and thus she focuses more on distributing the masks among the elderlies. Savitri Singh, a 65-year-old woman who lives in the neighbourhood said,
“All I have to say for this little girl is that she is very mature for her age. I am happy to possess a mask made by her. I try to use when I am out. God bless her.”
When asked about what she aspires to become in future, Bharti said she wants to continue helping others and become a social worker. She said,
I noticed that people in my colony were not following the COVID-19 safety norms. I got to know that while some were not bothered about the pandemic, some could not wear a mask because they could not afford it. Also, there is a lack of awareness about social distancing among the people in my colony. That’s why I thought that if give them mask for free, they will not only protect themselves and others by wearing the mask but will also gain some awareness. I would like to continue making people aware about various other issues as well, as I grow up.
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Acknowledging the compassion and work done by the 12-year-old, Ms. Mukherjee said,
Bharti says she learnt how important masks are to reduce the risk of infection in the learning centre she goes to. She started out by making few masks for her parents who couldn’t afford to buy one for themselves. Soon after this Bharti realised that she can make more masks for other people around her who work around waste like her parents. Since then she has made more and more masks and distributed those for free in her community. I am glad to know that she wants to be a social worker and work for the betterment of the people in her community.
According to Ms. Mukherjee, about 2 million informal sector waste pickers in India providing essential yet thankless services of collecting, segregating and recycling the waste in cities face the threat of getting infected with the coronavirus and of losing livelihoods. She said,
The waste pickers are badly hit by the pandemic. They are unable to sell the waste at optimum prices as the recycling markets have crashed. Most people working at landfills are jobless. They have no money to buy food, their children go hungry. They are marginalised and live in unrecognised slums. This means they fight harder to ride out this pandemic because they are facing double worry of keeping themselves and their families safe and putting food on the table. We need more people like Bharti who are aware and sensitive enough to come forward and help others even after facing financial problems at home. I urge governments to support the waste pickers in this time of crisis and provide them with proper gears to help them avoid infections.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.