Indian Church's commitment to help the weakest during coronavirus crisis
by Nirmala Carvalho

The lockdown has led to widespread unemployment and the consequent loss of livelihoods for those workers who live on daily wages and tribals.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In the epidemic that is affecting the whole world, the Church in India is doing its part to especially help the weakest and contribute to the general well-being of the country.

Already in the first week of April, the Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias,  sent a letter to the Prime Minister offering full assistance from the Church during this critical period. The Prime Minister held a video conference with health workers, including various Church representatives, primarily the director of Caritas India and the general manager of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI).

On April 2, the Prime Minister's office held another video conference to discuss the case of migrant workers. Card. Gracias also took part in this discussion in which it was highlighted that the immediate problem that needed to be addressed was that of providing assistance to migrant workers.

The Cardinal also appealed to all the churches of the Archdiocese so that they would not fire anyone and guarantee wages, even if no one can work during the lockdown. In fact, to control the epidemic, government authorities have announced the lockdown will be extended to 3 May.

This has led to widespread unemployment and the consequent loss of livelihoods for those workers who live on daily wages. The latter are doubly affected: they must stay indoors to protect themselves from the infection and yet they must meet the basic needs of the family. They have be given some relief with the distribution of cereals, sugar, oil, soaps and other essential materials over a 10 day period.

The Center for Social Action, through its network of partner organizations, Raigad, Thane and Mumbai, is reaching over 3000 families the with essential supplies. Beneficiaries include tribals, migrants, the elderly and other vulnerable people in Borivali, Dombivali, Dongri, Gorai, Kalyan, Karjat, Khopoli, Kolad, Mahad, Mahim, Malad East, Malwani, Manori, Murbad Road, Pali Chowk, Panvel, Pen, Roha, Tala, Thane, Uttan and Versova. The Archdiocese of Bombay offered the premises of four schools to assist in relief measures.

Due to the current situation, maximum precautions have been taken to comply with the lockdown rules. In most cases, the distribution of essential items was organized in collaboration with local officials. The Collector's office in Kalyan and Dombivali approached the local church to assist in providing cooked food and rations to various groups.

Other parishes within the archdiocese also offered assistance to local authorities. In addition, the Jesuit Frazer Mascarenhas, parish priest of the church of San Stanislao, Bandra, has made it known that they are starting a rescue camp for migrants in San Stanislao for a total of 100 men and in the Arrupe room for 25 women.

Another significant aspect of this aid work was the fact that there was no cash transaction, thanks to the availability of partners and suppliers, in addition to the staff of our bank who coordinated the billing and online payment process.

The Center for Social Action also assured that its staff were told to work from home long before the lockdown was officially announced, specifying not only to cancel all meetings, but also to educate the communities we work with to practice social distancing, even preventing outsiders from entering and interacting with the people of their village. The staff received early wages to prepare for the difficult times and were later awarded an additional free wage.