This has been a difficult time for all of us, but has become a question of survival for many. Lakhs of people in every nook and corner of the country are going from meal to meal, with no surety of how they will find their next one. The working-class family is typically in debt from years of impoverishment already, and eat what they earn each day. Thus the lockdown has put everyone who is part of the unorganised sector in vulnerable positions.
Rains are round the corner…
Rains are always a very difficult time for the urban poor. Work is at its lowest, may it be at construction sites or scrap-picking, selling subzi or going out for mazduri. It is a season basti-dwellers have come to dread, and now with the lockdown, their apprehensions have risen manifold.
Rains bring diseases and slush into settlements. Houses that have plastic roofs have borne the paws and claws of cats and rats and have holes from where water leaks in. Water overflows into houses, and drying one’s two pairs of clothes becomes a challenge. Accessing fuelwood is difficult and people don’t have money for gas.
Summers are the time when people usually earn, and then repair their roofs before the rains set in. Material like tin sheets, usually second hand, are bought, repaired and beaten into shape. For those who didn’t have as good an earning as the former, tarpaulin and plastic sheets along with tin serve as roof material. People usually change their roof plastic every two years. Tarpaulin sheets are stretched over the mud walls in houses where people have never had the resources to make something concrete.
“Today, we won’t be able to give even 10 rupees to another because we know there is no certainty in when it will come back,” shared a woman in Ganga Nagar. “Some of us got 500 rupees from the bank. I gave Rs. 200 to my one son for his family; Rs. 100 to my daughter for her children, and every day I give my husband Rs. 10 for his beedi. The government has given us rice. Will we eat plain rice or plain roti for months?” said a 55-year-old lady in Sabri Nagar.
As life begins to limp back, many, who earlier had a job, find themselves dismissed. Savings have been used up. Debts have increased and the money-lender knocks on the door every day.
In these situations, we again come back to you with a call for contributions in kind and cash. We are looking for flex banners or tin sheets as roof materials, old or new cotton cloth materials for bags and dairies and dry rations including wheat, pulses, oil. Finances would enable us to help people set up their work again; we would buy the first set of raw materials needed for their work or procure assets like hand-sewing machines and thelas.
We would like to share that through the period of the lockdown till date (June 13), we have received a total of about Rs. 31 lakhs from individual and institutional donors and have thus been able to reach out to 8000 families with rations, soaps, vegetables.
In April-May, our team also facilitated non ration card-holders to access rations from government ration shops by preparing lists after lists, and ensuring they too are recognized as poor. Since the end of May, we have begun to facilitate people to explore new ways of earning. Though this is still to a much smaller number of people, there are successful experiments where women have started selling vegetables, pachaundi and chhatan [the intestines, skin and feet of chickens that are eaten by many who can’t afford the fleshy parts] and have set up a snacks or a tea shop. There are many who are making chips and papad and others who are stitching cloth bags or making dairies. Our input in this has been to provide the raw materials at cost or provide training where needed.
More lockdown stories are available on our blog – www.muskaan.org/blog
We look forward to your help. Please feel free to contact us for details.
With regards and gratitude,
Pallav , Shivani 
Note – All donations to Muskaan in Indian Rupees are eligible for tax-exemption under Section 80G.