Monday, 30th October 2017

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Good Samaritans fan out with food across Bengal

From brick kiln workers in a South 24-Parganas pocket to ragpickers in Tangra, help is reaching people at several corners

By Debraj Mitra and Jhinuk Mazumdar in Calcutta
  • Published 5.04.20, 1:36 AM
  • Updated 5.04.20, 1:36 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
The Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre distributes food among families of migrant workers in a South 24-Parganas village on Thursday Telegraph picture

The threat of the virus is looming large, the streets are deserted, there is no transport and the sun is scorching. But that has not deterred some people from stepping out of their homes to give food to the poor, who have lost their livelihood because of the lockdown.

From brick kiln workers in a South 24-Parganas pocket to ragpickers in Tangra, help is reaching people at several corners. The helpers range from missionaries to bankers.

South 24-Parganas

Women carrying children in their arms, expecting mothers and others came to collect ration that would sustain them for some more days during the lockdown, which has robbed them of their livelihoods.

The men, women and children are migrant labourers who work in brick kilns of South 24-Parganas for eight months, starting September. The kilns have been shut because of the lockdown.

The Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre, a wing of the Loreto Congregation in South Asia, on Thursday distributed 5kg rice, 2kg dal, 3kg potato and 1kg of salt to each of the 400 migrant families in four brick fields in Pujali and Raipur villages, more than 10km from Budge Budge and over 25km from Esplanade.

Most of them migrate from Bihar and Jharkhand to spend eight months in Bengal. The entire family works to earn a living.

The Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre has been running a brickfield school project to provide education, health and awareness to migrants in South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas and Nadia.

“Even during the lockdown we are monitoring the condition of these migrants. It is difficult to arrange food supplies and receive necessary permission for distribution but we think it’s important to reach out to them. We followed the government guidelines during the distribution,” said Sister Monica Suchiang, the director of the centre.

On Thursday, 10 staff members of the centre went for the distribution.

“We had done a survey the day before to identify the most needy families. Some of them were wary to come because they thought they would be charged for the supplies. We gave them cereals because there are many expecting women in the families and children who need nutrition,” said Rina Singh, a project coordinator of the brickfield project who was among those who were distributing the ration.

Tangra

Over 300 families across Tangra and Topsia have got a week’s ration over the past few days, thanks to an inter-faith organisation.

A small team of volunteers has been covering around 30 to 35 homes every day. The kit given to each family includes 5kg rice, 2kg dal, 2kg potato, 1litre oil, five packs of biscuit and five bars of soap.

The homes they are visiting are mostly a series of shanties with asbestos roof and walls made of plastic sheets. “These people are mostly ragpickers, rickshaw-pullers and daily wage earners. With everything shut, their livelihood is gone,” said Owaiz Aslam, the founder of the Indian Pluralism Foundation, which has arranged for the free ration.

The volunteers of the foundation, which works to promote communal harmony, have drawn up a list of over 900 families across Tangra and Topsia. “We are coordinating with the police and local clubs to identify the needy families,” said Aslam.

Selimpur

Over 200 families living in shanties near the level crossing in Selimpur got free ration on Saturday. The givers were employees of the Bank of India. Every kit included 2kg of rice and wheat, 1kg each of potato, salt and sugar, 300g dal and tea and biscuit packs.

The members of the team that distributed the ration worked in the zonal office of the nationalised bank. Saturday was a working day for bank employees. The volunteers could make it because they were not posted in branches. Some of them were in the marketing department.

“Yesterday, we went to a slum along the canal in Narkeldanga to distribute ration. We wanted to cover an area each in the north and south,” said Radhakanta Hota, the zonal manager, Calcutta, of the bank, who supervised the distribution.

“We are utilising the CSR funds that are allocated to each zone,” he said.