The unfortunate death of a child and two Dalit labourers in an illegal unit of firecrackers led to the coming together of young minds in the year 2000 to form the Jan Sahas Social Development Society and support the socially excluded communities in India.
Ever since its inception, the organisation has been working relentlessly to provide, social and economic aid to communities in the lower rungs of the society with a special focus on women and children. Operating from 58 districts across 8 states, be it eradication of bonded labour like manual scavenging or the provision of social and psychological support to victims of rape, sex trafficking, or other sexual crimes, this organisation has worked tooth and nail in bringing relief to those who have often been socially excluded.
However the organisation's efforts in helping the downtrodden amid the Coronavirus crisis remain unparalleled.
The onset of the deadly pandemic has brought life to a standstill for many. While some are extremely fortunate to be under a roof and in the company of their loved ones, there are some who have to fight for survival each passing day. The haplessness of these communities was given the attention it deserved by Jan Sahas.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Jan Sahas's Director Ashif Shaikh said that the organisation strives to reach out and help the most vulnerable of the communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
"When the COVID-19 situation arrived, we engaged in a rapid assessment of the situation among communities like manual scavengers and even migrant workers and realized that the situation of the workers was far more complicated and needed immediate assistance especially in terms of food. To enhance this, we created a Logitude migration tracking system which helped us monitor almost 1,22,000 migrant families and thus we were able to distribute ration to almost 32,000 families across 48 districts in the country," Ashif Shaikh said.
Apart from distributing food grains, the organisation has also extended support in terms of providing mobile balance and cash transfer to the needy amounting to almost 11,421 individuals in 98 districts of 18 states. They have also distributed Personal Protective (PPE) kits to the tune of 6,542 to front lines workers like sanitation workers, ICDS workers and the police to guard them from the deadly virus.
Recounting the hardships faced by the migrant workers traveling home, Shaikh recalled one such incident when the organisation encountered Alam, an Indore factory worker, who was walking barefoot while on his journey home.
"He was scraping through the last 50 days of the lockdown by eating once a day and didn't consider returning to his village until he heard of the death of his grandmother and decided to walk the 700 odd km to his home in Satna for his grandmother's funeral and to see her one last time," Shaikh said.
Hearing his heartwrenching story, Jan Sahas provided him food packets and in collaboration with the district officials arranged a local truck that was going in the same direction as his village. The organisation also distributed slippers to migrants to ensure that they do not walk barefoot anymore.
In another incident, a migrant couple informed Jan Sahas that they had been traveling home with bare minimum money in their hands to tide them over and were incapable of providing proper food and milk for their infant son. Jan Sahas immediate provided them with food and milk.
"We realise that it might be a drop in the bucket, but it is at least something that will help sustain them for the next few hours," quoted Jan Sahas.
A 25-member Jan Sahas relief team is currently working day and night to provide food support (Puri-Sabji) to at least 2500 migrants on a daily basis. They plan to continue this service for the next one month.
While extending support on all frontiers to the workers, Shaikh also clarified that they should not take decisions for the deprived communities. While they are ensuring that all government entitlements are given to the workers without any discrimination and employment opportunities to entended to them after their exodus from different states but the decision to work in their native village or return to the cities entirely resides with the workers.
"The migrants build the roads we walk on, the buildings in which we live and therefore they build the nation as a whole. But when it comes to fulfilling their basic demands, we as a society fail to do it. We at Jan Sahas work towards ensuring that their needs are met to the fullest of our capability," Shaikh added.
While crime on roads has reduced, the lockdown has witnessed an increase in domestic violence cases or other sexual crimes against women indoors. Jan Sahas has thus launched a helpline to provide psychosocial support on call to survivors in distress. Currently a response team of 28 members is working round the clock to provide assistance in all possible manner to the communities.
The Logical Indian lauds Jan Saha's selfless service towards the society and the people of this country at large.