To Avoid Overcrowding, NGOs Distribute Ration in Dharavi at Night

The organisations have helped over 350 families in Dharavi so far but are now running low on funds. 

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When Mumbai sleeps at night, activist Gulzar Waqar Khan and his team make their way through the narrow winding lanes of Dharavi. The group distribute ration and essential supplies to those worst affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, has emerged as a hotbed for COVID-19 with over 960 people testing positive for the infection as of 12 May and at least 31 deaths.

Khan’s ‘Hum Sab Hai Ek’ Foundation has been working with NGOs Praja Foundation and Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT) to raise funds to source supplies and then coordinate with the police to distribute these supplies to the residents. All of this takes place late at night to avoid violation of social distancing.

“We are helping people at night because of the coronavirus crisis. If we distribute it (package) during the day, it could lead to overcrowding. Because of this, we could come in contact with each other. We don’t want that. Most people are asleep at night, that’s why we decided to do this at night.”
Gulzar Waqar Khan, Chairperson, Hum Sab Ek Hain Foundation  

A large number of migrant labourers in Mumbai live in Dharavi, working in small business units that operate throughout the slum. With work coming to a standstill since the lockdown began over seven weeks ago and no money to sustain themselves, many residents are now counting on the authorities and NGOs for ration.

“Since the lockdown began, migrant labourers have been facing so many problems and it’s still the same. Along with migrant labourers, even families that belong to the lower middle class or lower class, have exhausted their savings,” said Gulzar, adding that supplies are given out to those who need it the most.

“I personally go over to people’s homes, inquire if they have ration or not. Some people had ration for 15 days, some for 10-12 days and some people only had food for one meal, their dinner that night. I asked them, how will you manage in the morning? They told me, ‘Allah bharose hain hum’ (We are depending on Allah). I gave these people the first preference. People who had little or nothing.”
Gulzar Waqar Khan, Chairperson, Hum Sab Ek Hain Foundation 

The team is also aware of the risks that they face and ensure they take precautions. “We use sanitizers, wear a mask and even the person who collects the package wears a mask. After distributing, my team and I return home and wash our hands, feet and take a shower to ensure that the virus doesn’t reach our home. We can help people this way and also keep our homes safe,” said Gulzar.

The organisations have helped over 350 families so far but with funds running low and no end to the crisis in sight, Gulzar is unsure whether the team can continue the initiative for long.

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