Public Charitable Trust Janvikas helping migrant laborers in Gujarat displaced by COVID-19

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Founder of Janvikas, Gagan Sethi, second from left, talks with his team to assess the immediate needs of migrant workers. (Photo: courtesy Janvikas)

Janvikas, a public charitable trust founded in India in  1985, is actively engaged in bringing relief to migrant workers most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. Thousands if not millions around the country not only lost their jobs but were forced to return to their homes which in many cases were hundreds of miles away.

With its goal to contribute to building and strengthening a just, democratic and secular society and to bring about concrete and sustainable changes in the lives of poor …,” Janvikas has mobilized its own infrastucture of 17 decentralized autonomous institutions, hundreds of change leaders, to work with those most affected by COVID-19, in this case – migrant workers, especially those in Gujarat.

“I have just returned from a 300 kilometer round trip in the field – Ahmedabad to Rajasthan border. It was pathetic,” founder of Janvikas, Gagan Sethi,  said in a phone interview from India May 10, 2020. Well known for his decades of work in organizational development and capacity building, Sethi is in the thick of assisting displaced migrant workers in Ahmedabad.

“We distributed about 600 food kits in a 100 kilometer stretch. And today, my team of five volunteers has gone to distribute more. We have to accept that the government can’t come up with all the train tickets to take these people home,” Sethi added.

India plans to start limited train travel starting May 12

Janvikas says the most urgent need is for at least 90,000 dry food packets to distribute to migrant workers of Ahmedabad district in collaboration with collector Ahmedabad P K Nirala.

For donation in the United States, Janvikas has advised those who can help, to visit icaonline.org. Janvikas says its mission is to fill the gap in reaching out to those in dire straits. “Unmet needs are huge and leave lots of room for all NRIs to contribute to bring succor, hope and faith in brotherhood,” says Janvikas in a press release.

According to Sethi, there are an estimated 20 lakhs to 25 lakhs of migrant workers just in the big cities of India.

“What is needed right now is speed,” Sethi emphasized. “We need to help them and yet keep their dignity and self respect intact,” he added.

Janvikas team members put together hundreds of food kits for migrant workers displaced by COVID-19, containing basic needs like flour, pulses, oil, etc. (Photo: courtesy Janvikas)

“Based on our work with migrant workers who are walking on roads, we submitted this recommendations regarding stranded migrant laborers and those en-route, to Government of Gujarat and they accepted the same and (these) will be implemented shortly,” Kirti Joshi, an Indian-American who is the chief operating officer of Janvikas, said via text. The recommendations include emergency assistance to support food and livelihood; essential items for cooking; and health and life support through a hygiene kit; and community mobilization for identifying symptoms among slum dwellers and creating awareness about symptoms; and finally, helping get access to government entitlements.

In the midst of this chaotic and uncertain time the state of Gujarat especially the city of Ahmedabad has been declared a hotspot for transmission of the virus, Janvikas notes.

Among the challenges to meet are not just immediate need for food, but also what happens to the future and livelihood of these migrant laborers until economic recovery, Gagan notes. “We will have to create new health infrastructure where people can control their healthcare – a decentralized system. “Indian-Americans or non-Indians, or NRIs who understand the complexity of the country with the largest number of poor people, could act,” at this crucial juncture and in the future, Sethi said.

Cramped in slums where social distancing is practically impossible, the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak are high, notes Janvikas.

“We have to be functional and come up with alternatives despite these challenges,” Sethi says.

Along with its associates, Centre For Social Justice (CSJ), and Institute for Studies and Transformations (IST), and the infrastructure built in four states of  Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Janvikas has so far worked to alleviate the plight of migrant workers in the following ways:

  1. 16,000 dry food packets distrubted to migrant workers
  2. Ten self-managed community kitchens for 4,500 migrants/homeless on request of DCP zone 5 Ahmedabad
  3. 5,851 ration kits & hygiene kits distributed across Gujarat.
  4. 5,749 food Packet distribution in Ahmedabad with help of local donors and community support.
  5. 500 safety gears provided to ‘Safai Karamcharis’ Cash transfer/livelihood support to the most vulnerable.
  6. Activated district legal services authority to implement the disaster victim legal services scheme.
  7. 800 Paralegal and other community leaders to facilitate entitlements to government support schemes.
  8. Tracking migrants using volunteer teams.
  9. Using its community radio ‘Nazaria’ team to broadcast educational messages and helping local police to use our sound recording facility.
  10. Sixteen hundred community leaders across Gujarat will be trained online for Covid 19 and beyond in collaboration with Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar.
Janvikas has taken care to provide materials for self-managed community kitchens respecting the efforts and the dignity of migrant workers suffering greatly with lockdown during COVID-19. (Photo: courtesy Janvikas)

Some of the District Collectors have begun to work alongside Janvikas to implement the latest recommendations from Janvikas, according to Sethi and Joshi. Another key person in Janvikas working to alleviate the situation is Vijay Parmar, managing trustee, who since he was a student, has been an activist for basic human rights of the underprivileged, Joshi said.

For the long term, Janvikas hopes to build preparedness and preventive steps against the Covid 19 virus and similar threats.

Given the organization’s strong bonds with the community and commitment to work for them, Janvikas is reaching out to potential  donors in the U.S. and informing them of actual needs at this moment on the ground.

Its Community Leaders are  active at the grassroots educating the most vulnerable families and sensitizing the communities to face the virus.

Program Leaders/Anchors have prepared the list of slum dwellers/ households.

Janvikas estimates about 10,000 households from Ahmedabad, Khambhat, Petlad, Himatnagar and Kutch are in dire straits.

The organization continues to prepare kits for food and hygiene . The kit contains wheat flour, rice, pulses, sugar, tea, spices, soaps, sanitary pads. These  can last for one month and costs around Rs 2400/-.

For areas other than Ahmedabad, Janvikas has ensured the material is procured locally through advocacy at top level with secretariat of civil supply and police.

The local staff/ leader at community level take responsibility of distribution of the ration to families identified as per the list. The team responsible for delivering the kits in different locations got curfew passes

It also ensures donors that it has a system in place for accountability and transparency to prevent misappropriation of funds, establishing checks and balances. For more information and to donate, please visit www.janvikas.in.

 

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