A hugely successful Vaccination Drive for 1500 NT-DNT (Nomadic & Denotified Tribe) persons was organized in a community in Vitthalwadi, Kalyan, in Thane District, Maharashtra. Community leaders stated that this was the first such drive all over Maharashtra. We have huge appreciation for the community volunteers who managed this mammoth 3 day event, taking care of not only logistics in less resources but also inclusiveness, attention to more vulnerable populations such as persons with disability, women at risk and the old, and dignity of every person.
“This vaccine you have provided in like nectar to us”, said an old woman to one of the team. She said that the old, disabled and otherwise weaker sections like her, could not have reached the Covid-19 vaccination on their own. They do not have the knowledge, resources nor the access to public health services. Her family and most like her do not even own smart phones, much less register on COWIN app and book slots. She said that they had never imagined that vaccinations would be brought so close to their homes, given free, and everything organized so well.
Along with vaccinations, we strategized so that we could also take much-needed awareness and counselling to the 1500 participants. More than 100 FGDs and leaflets distribution were held in the ‘Observation Room’ after vaccinations giving detailed information about the pandemic, recent updates, safety measures, myth-busting, as well as social aspects of this calamity – exhorting everyone to pay attention to those around them more vulnerable due to gender, age, disability, mental health, pregnancy, poverty, lack of nutrition, caste and so on. As an immediate result, much more inclusiveness could be seen in the participants from the 2nd day.
“We all lived nearby, but never got together like this. This unity in NT-DNTs brought by Deepa (Deepa Pawar – our Founder) is a wave that can’t be stopped now. You have done what I’ve not seen in my 40 years of work, never before.”– a senior community leader, a sentiment shared by leader after leader.
The vaccination camp was much more than just that – it brought together NT-DNT leaders and people across different communities – Gopal, Wadar, Banjara, Nathpanthi Davri Gosavi, Ghisadi, Pardhi and others. On the last day, all the leaders and volunteers came together for a closing ceremony celebrating NT-DNT leader and freedom fighter Umaji Naik’s Anniversary. It had songs, speeches, Constitution Preamble reading, and discussions about our historical leaders such Dr. Ambedkar, Savitribai Phule, Umaji Naik and Birsa Munda. A historical community-led deliberation and consciousness on the unity among various NT-DNT communities as well as other Bahujan communities took place. Anubhuti mentored Badlache Parv Kala Manch (youth cultural group) performed songs and slogans.
“I thought my friend from another (Bahujan) community, who didn’t get the vaccine, would be angry because we had organized only for NT-DNTs. But he saw me working for 3 days and told me he was instead inspired”– a community leader about never before seen rising Bahujan awareness and support for the highly marginalized NT-DNTs
The vaccinations were provided by Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, the drive supported by CII Foundation and CLP India Pvt. Ltd. The Awareness campaign was supported by Dasra as part of their #backthefrontline initiative to support grassroot NGOs in India providing frontline services in the #COVID19 crisis. The closing ceremony with #mentaljustice, intellectual, social and political discussions and deliberations was supported by Mariwala Health Initiative.