The nationwide lockdown has left the streets of Kolkata's busiest red light area, Sonagachi, deserted for the longest time in history. Business in Sonagachi, the oldest and largest red-light area in Asia, has come to a halt.
With a sharp decline in the number of customers, sex workers are struggling to make their ends meet amid the COVID-19 scare. The only earners in their family, a number of them are unable to pay their house rents.
A massive group of about 8,000 women working in Sonagachi witness the footfall of about 30,000 people on an average each day.
In the view of the current situation in Sonagachi, The Art Of Living's Project Udaan's volunteers extended help to the workers of Sonagachi by distributing essentials in the area this month.
"In phase one of relief work, around 200 sex workers have been benefited by the Art Of Living. We have provided dry ration and each pack includes 4 kg rice, 2 kg potato, 2 kg wheat flour, 500 gm lentils and 500 gm oil," Arnab Acharjee, General Secretary of Project Udaan, tells The Logical Indian.
"Not only this, but we will also make them aware of the coronavirus. We will make them understand and follow social distancing. Project Udaan is now trying to reach out to almost 500 sex workers, who are in distress due to the lockdown," he adds.
Art of Living's Project Udaan has been working for the welfare of the sex workers and their children in Sonagachi since 2012. In the time of distress, the foundation's volunteers were contacted for help in getting basic supplies. A WhatsApp group of AOL volunteers jumped to action and raised Rs 1.5 lakh within a week. Post that, they had to arrange the ration and get the packets ready. All of this had to be done keeping social distancing and government guidelines in mind.
"It's getting very difficult for us to survive this. There are no customers and we have nothing to eat. Many were mostly surviving on water, food is the biggest problem. Some house owners are supporting us when it comes to rent but food is the biggest concern," Priya (name changed), one of the sex workers, told Arnab.
The volunteers associated with Project Udaan are working towards managing ration and getting things lined up for phase two. Arnab Acharjee mentions that this it there are many people in need of help and Project Udaan intends to hand-hold the sex workers and their families till the COVID-19 crisis is over.
"To survive, we are playing indoor games to keep ourselves engaged. Otherwise, we would go into depression. Art of Living has been in touch with us all this while and has given us food and essentials," Nirmala (name changed), another sex worker, told Arnab.
The volunteers associated with Project Udaan are working towards managing ration and getting things lined up for phase two. Arnab Acharjee mentions that there are many people in need of help and Project Udaan intends to hand-hold the sex workers and their families till the COVID-19 crisis is over.