Reethu, a story teller, a person often found between the pages of a book or contemplating the nuances of life.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, India has been under lockdown since March 24. While many across the country have confined themselves to the security of our home, most don't have the same privilege. While most of us can still work from home, lakhs have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet.
In the severe economic crisis that India is grappling with currently, the worst-hit are the poor, especially the daily wage earners. With no means of work or money, they are scrambling for a day's meal. Amid this crisis, several individuals and organisations have come forward to help those in need.
One such individual is Dev Kumar Verma, who is providing meals to thousands of labourers in the coal mines in Jharkhand. An official with Coal India Limited, 36-year-old Verma is the founder of Pathshala - a free school for underprivileged children, most of whose parents work in the coal mines.
"When I got transferred to my home state Jharkhand, I started providing education to the children involved in coal smuggling from an early age of five years. For them, I started a school using my entire salary. We are currently running three branches of Pathshala where we provide free education, along with school uniform, textbooks etc for free of cost. We have nearly 450 students in our centres," Verma tells The Logical Indian.
However, after the lockdown came into effect, these children had no means for food. With the mines shut, the labourers were also out of work.
"During this lockdown, these kids are not getting anything. Their parents working in the coal mines are also out of work. Some of them started asking me if I could help them in any anyway. So, at the beginning of the first lockdown, with the help of my friends, we started distributing food items like atta, rice, and other essentials in my village - Sonardih in Dhanbad district," says Verma.
Soon, people from nearby villages started approaching Verma for help. In the last 55 days, through Pathshala, Verma has provided 4,000 food kits to those in need. The organisation is also running 37 community kitchens which help feed nearly 12,000 people every day. Till date, Verma has helped serve nearly 2.75 lakh meals in 85 villages across Jharkhand.
In Association with ISKON Dhanbad, Pathshala is also serving 1000 cooked meals to migrant labourers at Dhanbad Railway Station, Hirapur and Golf Ground.
"Apart from this, we are distributing milk for those kids under five years of age," says Verma. So far, they have served 1,000 litres of milk to the children.
Furthermore, the organisation has provided over 40,000 soaps, over 10,000 hand sanitizers and masks, and 5,000 Kg groceries, to the Jharkhand Police community kitchen.
Every day, the expenditure for the relief work comes to around Rs 1 lakh. Till date, several NGOs and individuals have come forward to help the organisation raise over Rs 40 lakh. However, a large part of this amount came from Verma himself, who had saved nearly Rs 20 lakh to fulfil his dream of starting a high school for the children.
"In this fourth lockdown, those NGOs who were providing the food in the first and second lockdown has now stopped their relief work. So, the entire burden of my district is over me," says Verma.
"I am using the fund which I had saved to fulfil my dream of opening a high school for the kids. We are compromising that dream and now we are only focusing on taking care of those people. I know that they are not getting any kind of support from anywhere. They are only getting rice from the government - 10Kg rice each month. But we are providing dal, atta, salt, oil, and other essentials," he adds.
Talking about the road ahead, Verma says, "Whatever funds we have right now, I think it will last till May 31. So, we will continue providing food until then. If required, we will take more help from friends and other NGOs."Also Read: Corona Warriors: Through Social Media Campaign, This 30-Yr-Old Has Helped Over 3,500 People With Ration
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