Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): It was mid-May last year. The corona-induced lockdown entered its second phase. The heat in the state capital was not as extreme as it normally happens to be. Because of the curfew, a lugubrious stillness consumed the afternoon din that the thoroughfares in the city generally give off.
In one such eerie afternoon, dark clouds began to gather. As the cloudy afternoon approached the evening, a terrible storm raged through the city.
The strong wind blew away many tin sheds and polythene roofs of many makeshift homes in slum areas. The corona had already rendered the poor hungry. The storm left them roofless.
A final year student of dental science, Shailendra Dubey, took it upon himself to feed the poor in the lockdown. As Dubey who runs a voluntary organisation Jeewan Sarthak reached Chhola area in the old city with his team, he saw an elderly person wailing.
The household goods of that man were wet. The storm blew away the polythene sheets of his makeshift home. No sooner had the volunteers heard the pathos of that elderly man than they arranged polythene sheets and repaired the roof.
Immediately after that, they had to rush to another place to dish out food. By then, it was night. Dubey and his team’s trek to feed the hungry began from March 25, the first day of the lockdown.
Dubey says then his team consisted of ten members. They pooled their pocket money to arrange food for the poor. It was, however, not possible to feed 100 people daily. Soon, their pockets perched up. The ration kept in their homes fell short. They, then, created What’App group, Covid Fighter - Jeewan Sarthak. Thus, began the crowd funding.
Because of the curfew, the volunteers were not allowed to repair from one place to another. Many a time cops rained lathi blows on them.
That failed to stop Dubey and his boys, who, somehow, managed to get a curfew pass.
Just as the funds came streaming a few member of the group tested positive for the coronavirus.
The virus did not spare Dubey. He was hospitalised. As a true student of medical science, he held the ground and managed all activities of the group from the hospital.
They divided the city into five zones: Anand Nagar, Ashoka Nagar, Lalghati, Gandhi Nagar and 6 Number Market and set up one kitchen in each zone.
Dubey says he had collected Rs 2.40 lakh to buy a car but freed up the plan to feed the poor. Besides that, his mother gave him Rs 40,000.
Through crowd funding, his organisation gathered Rs 8 lakh. As well as providing cooked food to 68, 000 people, they distributed rice, pulses, flour, oil, salt, sugar, tea and spices to 1, 700 families.
Sometimes, they took food stuff from shopkeepers on credit. As a result of that, they had to ante up Rs 60,000.
Dubey says one day they found three mentally challenged people on a road. Dubey says one of them developed gangrene in the leg. He himself provided first aid to the man and rushed him to a hospital, as the officials of the health department refused to do that.
Many students were stranded in the city. Dubey says his volunteers coordinated with the administration. They sent 300 of the stranded students to their homes.
Fund shortage, however, never got into his way. Twenty-nine-year-old Dubey says help came from God.
They also collected 600 units of blood in the lockdown when the blood banks dried out. That way they supplied blood to many a patient.
The work of Dubey went on even after the lockdown. Dubey says, “Main akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar, log saath aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya… (I set off alone towards my goal, but, people came along and it began to turn into a caravan!…”