04/27/2020, 15.02
INDIA
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Church support for those newly impoverished by the lockdown

by Nirmala Carvalho

“As the economy may take time to turn around, we expect this situation to continue for some time. If it does, the number of needy families will continue to grow.” Meanwhile, “Our team visited women and children who are suffering from anxiety over the future.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The lockdown in India has created new poverty among people who performed contract work and now have lost their earnings, this according to Fr Frederick D'Souza, former director of Caritas India, and currently pastor at Saint Alfonsus Church in Vasant Kunj (south Delhi), who spoke to AsiaNews.

“The stranded families, which include construction workers, have been kept in open fields in make shift clusters or jhuggis (slum dwellings) near my parish,” said the clergyman. A “water tanker comes occasionally, but the water supply is irregular, and this causing great difficulties.

“After the lockdown, everything has become more difficult and the water supply has been affected. This certainly has implications for hygiene and health.”

“The Church is taking care of the needy, providing daily rations to stranded families in need. We are following them and supplying materials to 30 additional families.”

“As the economy may take time to turn around, we expect this situation to continue for some time. If it does, the number of needy families will continue to grow.” Meanwhile, “Our team visited women and children who are suffering from anxiety over the future.”

In the State of Uttar Pradesh, Fr Anand Mathew is helping the poor affected by the lockdown, as the “the coordinator of the Sajha Sanskriti Manch,[*] which is carrying out this noble cause across Varanasi city and in all the villages, wherever the least privileged, marginalised and vulnerable Dalit communities live. Many of them are called ‘musahars’ or rat-eaters.”

“The campaign has been a great blessing for them,” he explained, “because they have no money and live hand to mouth. The campaign will continue as long as the lockdown continues and as long as funds continue to come from people in the city and their friends from different parts of the country,” but not from abroad.

“In the past 30 days of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many migrant labourers, landless farmers, weavers, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, daily labourers, street vendors and members of nomadic communities have been trapped by the economic crisis.

“Sajha Sanskriti Manch is making a modest attempt to identify these people and provide them with dry food kits that include 5 kilos of wheat flour, 4 kilos of rice, 1 kg of dal, salt, cooking oil, biscuits and masks. One kit meets a family’s food needs for seven to ten days.

“This relief work began on 25 March. From 25 March to April 23 we spent Rs. 1,663,582. With this money, we were able to help 4,519 families. If we count individual beneficiaries, the number is 25,460 people. Some of our associate members have also been providing emergency help on their own. Therefore, altogether we distributed kits to 9,383 families for a total of 45,030 beneficiaries.”

“On 25 April the Muslim community started the fasting month of Ramadan. To express our solidarity with the Muslim community, we will provide provisions for Sahari (the start of fasting) at dawn, and also for Aftari (breaking the fast) in the evening. We will provide dates, onions, potatoes, gram (pulses), gram flower (besan) and papad (flat bread) along with rice, wheat and dal (split pulses). This will go to the poorest Muslims who live in the slums of Varanasi and its suburbs. A kit costs us Rs 650.”

“So far the work has been carried out with the support of generous people. We are very grateful to everyone for their support. The fight against hunger and coronavirus shall continue so that we all can live a healthy life. So please continue to support us, "said Father Anand IMS.


[*] United Forum for Cultural Diversity, an alliance of 15 civil society organisations in Varanasi.

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