Mumbai : Our volunteers are working in all areas of Maharashtra who can help government with Free Food Distribution, said Mr. Salman Ahmed, President, Maharashtra South. Further, in this regard, SIO Maharashtra South zone has committed to provide 500 student volunteers in state to carryout relief work in coordination with state government.
Below is the letter written to Hon. Chief Minister of Maharashtra with request to take up specific measures to ease suffering of people in this ongoing crisis due to lockdown and COVID19.
Mr. Uddhav Thackeray,
State of Maharashtra.
Subject: Providing food and shelter to those affected by the lockdown
As you are aware that the lockdown to contain the spread of Coronavirus Diseases (Covid-19) has put a great strain on a large section of the population. The homeless people, migrant workers, unorganised labourers, daily wage earners and other disadvantaged sections of the society that have been out of work due to the lockdown, are without food and shelter.
A number of cities in the state are host to a large population of migrant workers from within the state as well as outside the state. Many of them have no place to live as the workplaces where they live have been shut while others have been evicted by landlords as they couldn’t pay the rent. The problem of starvation has become even more acute. With no employment and source of income, many are unable to feed themselves and their families.
While many individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO), have been providing food to the needy, these efforts are constrained by lack of resources and coordination. It’s the responsibility of the state to ensure the overall well-being of the people in these testing times. The government is in a unique position to enhance these efforts and streamline them for the benefit of the most vulnerable sections of society.
We understand that Maha Vikas Aghadi government is sensitive towards these issues faced by people in the state. You have provided a stead leadership in this time of crisis. The several measures announced by the government – utilising state-run schools for shelter, reducing the price of Shiv Bhojan and providing thrice the quantity of food grains through the public distribution system (PDS) – are laudable.
However, these measures won’t suffice, and many of them are yet to be implemented. There have hardly been any schools made available to the homeless. The number of Shiv Bhojan centres is inadequate. Many of these centres are inaccessible to people due to curfew in the state. Many PDS shops have refused to store additional grains, as they lack space and are unable to pay for them up-front.In this view, we are suggesting a few additional measures, which need to be implemented urgently in order to ease the pain of the people:
– Set up Shiv Bhojan centers in all the cities and towns in the state, especially in the areas with a high concentration of migrant population. The centres can be set up at public places such as municipal schools, railways stations and bus stands with the help of local self-governing bodies and NGOs. Ensure an adequate supply of food at these centres.
– Direct the state school education department and local authorities to provide shelter to the homeless at the state-run schools. Open up as many schools as possible in the migrant-concentrated areas.
– Allow PDS shops to store additional grains without paying for them up-front and allow universal access to PDS supplies through ration shops, for those who have or do not have ration cards. Provide additional space to these centres to store food grains.
– Direct employers to continue the salaries of the workers during the lockdown period and prohibit landlords from charging any rent during this period. Punish the errant employers and landlords by revoking their licenses.
We understand that the lockdown imposed by the state and the Centre is desired in order to control the contagious Covid-19. But the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. Bad as it is, this crisis of starvation and homelessness will likely further accentuate the health hazards of Coronavirus outbreak, as people will be less inclined to maintain social distance and stay put at one place.
SIO has a wide network of student volunteers in most of the districts in the state, who are dedicatedly working to not only create awareness about Covid-19, but are also providing relief to those affected by the lockdown. We are more than willing to partner with the government and cooperate in its endeavor to help the distressed.
We hope that you will consider these suggestions and implement them in an earnest manner.
Zonal President, SIO South Maharashtra