The pandemic in its second wave has hit us much worse and much closer to home for everyone. The difference is that for families from NT-DNT, ST, SC communities, everything can get wiped out if there is a single case in the family, even 15 days of no work. Anubhuti has re-started relief work in this even darker phase than last year, but we see hope and derive strength from communities we work with.

Read about the highly deprived NT-DNT communities we are reaching since last year here, media coverage of our relief work here and last year’s detailed reach here.

Week 1: April 15 to 21

  • Phone calls and one-on-one meetings following all safety protocol at Community Centres in Kolegaon, Dombivali and Rahtoli, Badlapur to understand situation
  • Online group counselling for youth on ‘COVID and Mental Health’. Youth shared about extreme distress, confusion, fear, dread – of impending starvation, the indignity of having to ask for help again and again, if anyone in the family gets the infection how can they possibly pay the bill. Shared about guilt and helplessness as young persons, yet they can do nothing as their parents slip into gloom and rage. Some families already have positive cases, leading to lot of fear, and even shame with the urge to hide the fact.

This kind of mental helplessness has very less Mental Health solutions. We can only respond trying to provide answers to their fundamental questions – financial, medical, food, shelter..

Week 2: April 22 to 28

  • Ration Kits distribution started with efforts to first reach women-headed households, with members with disability, survivors of violence, with positive cases, the poorest.
  • Reached 60 families in Dombivli and Badlapur in Thane District, of NT-DNT, SC communities.

“The quantity & quality of the ration packet is beyond has ensured one less thing to worry about. Otherwise we are just crumbling under the weight of questions of survival..”

A youth in Kolegaon, Dombivali
  • Ration distribution to 44 more NT families in Kalwa.
  • Continuing medical support, handling cases of DV, Child rights and extreme mental health distress along with counseling and COVID19 awareness with NT-DNT, ST, SC families as they face a wall of questions – of food, rent, health, education, jobs, security.

Week 3: April 29 to May 5

“I am 5 months pregnant, I am worried how to keep up my health in this financial crisis. That too in this pandemic when I know I should take care of my nutrition, but how? Right now, we are struggling for two basic meals a day.”

A pregnant woman we reached with a Ration Kit
  • Continued Ration Distribution with another 40 NT families in the interiors of Bhiwandi.
  • Online COVID awareness discussions with rural and urban poor youth, NT-DNT leaders and community members on what to be aware of in this pandemic. They had lot of questions ranging from affordable nutrition, oxygen-rich food, what to do if a family member tests positive, vaccinations and many more. It was encouraging to see that these ground communities, despite the bleak times, are motivating themselves and each other to get through and survive.
  • Continued ration distribution with 40 more NT-DNT families in Kalyan and Dombivali.
  • Online Community Counselling was continued. Dr, Bharati Lele, a general physician with over 35 years experience with rural populations, addressed various questions on nutrition, vaccination, care and precautions for women with various vulnerabilities – such as during pregnancy, tested positive or recovering from COVID, breastfeeding, new mothers, with any kind of disability.

Week 4: May 6 to 12

  • Community Counselling online and on ground continued with group counselling in small groups. This was preceded by face-to-face or on phone research about how community members are being impacted – these gave us an idea of the doubts and questions troubling people.
  • Ration Kits distribution continued with NT-DNT families in Badlapur.
  • Vaccination awareness along with online registrations were started in Kolegaon and Rahtoli. NT-DNT community leaders who were part of online counselling started carrying out awareness and making lists of their people who were ready to take the vaccine. This is a challenge since there are a lot misgivings, we are working hard to create awareness.

Week 5: May 13 to 19

  • Continued Vaccination Registration drives at Kolegaon, Dombivali and Rahtoli, Badlapur.
  • Ration distribution to 175 extremely poor NT-DNT families such as of Shikalkar, Gadiya Lohar, Bahurupi, Kaikadi, Wadari, Nathpanthi and various other highly skilled communities, today living in deplorable conditions in the interiors of Pune. Their current conditions are a criminal failure of the state, the result of hundreds of years of exploitation and injustice of social systems. Anubhuti is working, along with other NT-DNT activists and NT community leaders, for long-term change.
  • Ration distribution to 140 NT-DNT families of Vaghya Murali, Ghisadi, Gondhali, Jogti, Tritiyapanthi (hijra/transgender) communities in Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, Kalyan and Dombivali. As always, the tremendous voluntary service community leaders are providing to Indian society, remains unknown and un-recognized.
  • Ration Distribution with 56 NT-DNT families of Gondhali, Nathpanthi Davri Gosavi communities in Vithhalwadi, Kalyan.
  • Continued reaching single women (divorced, partner has died or left, survivors of domestic violence, etc.) who are more vulnerable to financial privations in Kolegaon, Rahtoli and surrounding areas.
  • Reached 23 traffic police wardens in Ambernath who have been working non-stop since last year, and now without pay for over 2 months.

Week 6: May 20 to 26

  • Continued reaching single women (divorced, partner has died or left, survivors of domestic violence, etc.) who are more vulnerable to financial privations in Kolegaon, Rahtoli and surrounding areas.

Week 7: May 27 to June 02

  • A NT community leader, having worked with us over last year, identified that adolescent girls’ nutrition is getting impacted due to the financial crisis. Anubhuti helped mobilize a small amount for the same and thus, nutitious items like peanuts, jaggery, dry coconut, dates, etc. were distributed to 30 girls.
  • As NT-DNT leaders continue to work on the ground, and volunteer with us, they are finding more and more families in need. 35 families living in different spots of Thane were reached with ration and hygiene kits.
  • More than 100 families with members with vulnerabilities (disability, medical issues, lost job, women at risk) living in tents at Circus Ground, Ambernath were reached with ration and hygiene kits. This is a settlement of more than 500 families belonging to different NT-DNT communities such as Nathpanthi Davri Gosavi (earn their living by begging), Mariyawale (can be commonly seen dancing and beating themselves with belts to rythmic beats, in exchange for alms), Nadibail wale (rear the ceremonious bulls used in many Indian festivals), etc.

We want to reiterate our admiration for ground leaders – all are struggling financially, some are recovering from COVID, some have lost their homes in the recent cyclones & heavy rains. But they are back on the ground – making lists, motivating their people, weathering increasingly hostile (completely justified but misdirected) complaints from the community as they are not able to respond to every cry for help. We salute their amazing resourcefulness, logistical capabilities, and inclusiveness. Their invaluable labour – completely voluntary and unpaid – remains a huge debt to our nation and society.

Week 8: June 03 to 09

  • 50 families who earn their living as Vaghya, Murali, Gondhali, Jogti (nomadic folk art performers) and of the Hijra community were found and reached, living at Forest Naka, Ambernath.
  • 75 families belonging to the Banjara nomadic community were reached, who live in various areas of Badlapur and make a living as daily wage labourers.
  • Second round of ration distribution was carried out with 40 more families living at Ambernath Circus Ground, who were identified as extremely needy after the last round.

The heavy rains have created even more havoc. Floors of NT-DNT homes (tents) are nothing more than dirty water and mud. This is mental injustice being inflicted on entire communities, as their struggles just keep increasing – of housing, roads, toilets, safety – when will their youth turn their attention towards matters of their development such education and careers?

Week 9: June 10 to 17

  • A concerted relief campaign was carried out reaching almost 400 families spread across 16 spots in Thane and Mumbai districts: Kalyan, Vitthalwadi, Dombivali, Ambernath, Badlapur, Ghatkopar, Sewri, Cotton Green, Kurla, Pratiksha Nagar, Vasai, Andheri, Bandra, Khar, Mankhurd, Govandi. Some of the most vulnerable families of 11 different NT-DNT and Adivasi communities following diverse occupations were reached including Gadiya Lohar (ironsmith), Vadari (work with soil and stones), Banjara (performers), Joshi (fortune tellers), Gosavi (ask alms), Gondhali (religious performers), Katkari (Adivasi), Pardhi, Madari (perform street shows with monkeys), Nandiwale (bring the ceremonious Nandi Bail to functions), etc.

Week 10: June 18 to 24

  • As the lockdown starts opening up in Maharashtra, there is no improvement in the informal job sector; condition of communities who are dealing with the crisis for over 16 months is in fact worsening. Community leaders understand this, and are using the lesser restrictions to move further into the interiors to carry out surveys to find families living scattered, with no leader to represent them to even organizations like us. We salute these efforts of leaders, for whom this work is of priority despite dealig with deep personal losses.
  • 100 families living in Wai, Satara district were thus found and reached.
  • Even more appreciable are the efforts of the predominantly male NT-DNT leaders to break their biases and stand with human rights approach to reach out to the transgender community within NT-DNTs. Their efforts not only established contact with over 50 members of the Hijra community from all over Thane District, but also managed to build their support for further collaborations. These members were also reached with ration kits.
  • Youth in our Kolegaon and Rahtoli centres, who are children of single mothers / disabled parents / themselves disabled, medically suffering or vulnerable in other ways, and women at risk were reached with second round of ration distribution. 19 such families were reached.

Week 11: June 25 to July 1

  • At a vaccination drive organized by the Kinnar Asmita Trust in Ulhasnagar for the LGBTQI community members, we collaborated to provide ration kits to over 200 Hijra members along with a leaflets campaign on social sensitivity, awareness and leadership during the pandemic as important leaders and stakeholders of society.
  • Around 40 Gas Cylinder Delivery persons were reached with Ration Kits.
  • One of the NT community leaders, who are continuing to look for people living further away in the interiors, connected us to a settlement of NT families living in Lonavla. They had not reached any help till now, and there are many with disabilities, living alone in old age, single women, etc. Ration kits were distributed here along with survey to understand their situation and potential for future work.

Week 12: July 2 to 8

  • Ration kits were taken to more vulnerable families living at Forest Naka such as old persons living alone, persons with disability, women survivors of violence, etc. who were identified by a community leader.

July 25-31

  • As rains and flooding lashed western Maharashtra, the worst affected have been NT-DNTs. They live on the most risky land – marshy land, banks of rivers, base and slope of hills, undeveloped land, near forests, among high grasses and bushes. This makes them much more vulnerable to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes. In short, more severe impact of disasters on NT-DNTs is directly connected to their landlessness. Community leaders who are working with us since last 2 years connected us to settlements living on outskirts of towns like Bhiwandi in Thane District. Ration kits were taken to 65 such families.

August 1-15

  • The team traveled to Mahad and other flood stricken areas of Maharashtra and found utter destruction among NT-DNT families. In one spot, the team could meet only 20 of the more than 200 NT-DNT families who had lost everything in the floods. This is because, the rest had left to work as labour – to clean the muck and dirt in homes of other flood affected persons. These latter are also very poor, but NT-DNTs are so severely poor, that starvation is driving them to take up these and other degrading jobs. This is only one story of many – highlighting the more severe impact of every disaster on NT-DNTs, without any awareness about or response to their plight from settled communities, civil society or even the government. The team simply distributed cash, because the reality was such that questios of whether to give ration or other materials, paled in comparison to their immediate needs.

Anubhuti is deeply committed to mental dignity of every person, the Kits are created with lot of effort on nutritional value of items, needs of different age groups, cultural preferences, quality and of course quantity.

We are extremely grateful to Mariwala Health Initiative, CII Foundation, CLP India, Dasra, Youth Feed India, BTS Army and hundreds of individual donors who have come forward in these trying times and made this work possible.

To donate: Ketto Fundraiser or Payu Link.