Around mid-April 2020, I received a call from the Department of Information & Public Relations (DIPR) control room. A group of 25+ workers needed food packets every day. As this was a special request, beyond the list on our Excel sheets, I would have to go personally to deliver the packets. I also received another request to deliver daily meals to a group of 17+ workers, originally from the North East, living in my area. These two requests were an addition to my daily schedule of distributing food.

Every day, we would check for any special requests or any issues faced by any of our team members. We would share good practices as they could help different teams reach out to every hungry person.

One day, Santoshji came to me and thanked me. I was puzzled and I asked why; he then narrated the story of an old lady on the main road near the railway station. She lived under the skywalk and sold vegetables, but she could not earn enough to afford two meals a day. Santoshji provided her food packets during his rounds every day and one day, in return, she gave him a bunch of coriander leaves she had been saving up for him as a token of her gratitude. Our entire team was touched by her gesture and it also boosted our morale.

I also received a message once which I shared with my team. A few kids had drawn up a picture thanking all corona warriors who were providing them with food.

Another day, Hari was a little quieter than usual; he told me of a woman who had come running to him and Murali while they were distributing food and taken one of the packets. She seemed flushed and thanked both profusely. Later, they learnt she was diabetic and required to eat in short intervals to maintain healthy sugar levels. She was feeling dizzy due to low sugar levels and couldn’t find anything to eat as all eateries and shops were closed when she saw them distributing food. This incident made the team realise once again that our actions were touching a lot of people’s lives.

Some days, we would not be able to access and distribute the food in time. Vincent Pinto and Rakshith came asking if we could speed up its arrival. They were touched to see people waiting for them on the roads instead of near the place of distribution. They also described the way people would enquire about the delay, and their fear of the supply ending. People’s expressions on finally receiving the food affirmed the teams’ resolve to serve as many people as possible within the time they had.

Each day brought in newer challenges. We were required to be more and more careful during our food distribution rounds as the numbers of Covid-19 cases kept increasing due to people not maintaining social distancing.

My friend Nitesh called me one night to inform of an old man sitting by the roadside with neither shelter nor food. My heart sank because on the very same day, Bangalore had witnessed rains and the next few days were forecasted to be rainy too. I immediately called up a team member, Babu, who stayed near the location, to rush and check on the situation.

Babu and his friend reached the location and recorded a video of the old man speaking. We could hardly understand what he said, but we could make out that he was speaking in Marathi, a language none of us understood. I rushed to the location around midnight to take stock of the situation. The old man did not show Covid-19 symptoms, but he had an open wound on his leg which was bleeding and did not allow him to move around.

I reported the situation to the control room and requested for an ambulance but couldn’t get one. A couple of calls later, we were able to get help from a Hoysala patrol vehicle (police car designated for patrolling and night-time emergencies). To our luck, the Hoysala driver spoke Marathi and helped us convince the old man to go to the nearest government hospital, where we admitted him for further treatment. The entire team was happy to have helped a truly needy person, and the incident gave us further insights in how to respond to such situations.

Towards the end of April 2020, the state government announced online registrations for non-locals wanting to return to their hometowns. This again gave our team the responsibility of helping migrants, labourers and otherwise, to register for their journeys home.

The new tasks also drew our attention to people who simply wanted to be the first to get on the trains and head back home. An NDTV reporter relayed to me a message about two young boys, originally from Uttar Pradesh, stuck near the railway station without food and shelter. My teammate and I visited them and bought them some breakfast. The two boys, around 22 years of age, said they were stuck there for the last few days and were trying to go back to their hometown as one of the boys’ father had passed away.

After they ate breakfast, we got down to registering them on the website arranging their travel home. The application was submitted successfully, after which we needed to provide documents that could corroborate the father’s demise. However, the boy in question became defensive and said he was unable to do so since the local administration was taking a long time to issue the death certificate.

From their tone and body language, we got a feeling that the boys were lying just to be able to get aboard the first train home. They knew how to use Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook to get our and the media’s attention, but they could not provide a picture of the boy’s father’s death certificate. Such incidents did impact the team’s morale a little, but they also kept us on our toes in identifying those who were using the situation as opportunities.

The team was determined to stay alert and be able to serve those in need. It was the vision of Capt. Manivanan I.A.S who raised this army of volunteers to rise to the occasion and serve the society in its need of hour. Overall, the team distributed more than 2 lakh packed meals to the needy during the lockdown. I am thankful to every officer who helped us learn and understand our own capabilities and serve the needy.

Raminder Singh Sokhi

Raminder Singh Sokhi is a civil defence personnel serving in Bangalore where he has participated in several rescue missions.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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