BHOPAL: Things fell apart for poor and the middle-class people as the lockdown was let loose upon the country last year. The man in the street was barely acquainted with the word, ‘lockdown’. What he had heard till then was ‘curfew’. Besides dealing with coronavirus, which was snuffing out millions of lives across the world, it was a big challenge to arrange for food for the poor. A youngster in Bhopal, Ravindra Yati, and his team took it upon themselves to feed the poor daily.
On March 24 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown. Instead of sitting at home, Yati began to arrange for food for prisoners and their families. Yati thought there were many to take care of the man in the street, but there was none to feed prisoners and their families. Thus, he and his team plunged into action. On March 25, Yati arranged for rations and set up a community kitchen. By end-March, the number of kitchens he set up went up to four. The fare they prepared was dished out among 500 people daily.
Yati says he set up kitchens in Lalita Nagar, Ambedkar Nagar, Shahpura C-Sector and Sainath Colony. He says it was because of his team that they could provide food to people for 58 days. Whoever came to those kitchens was given food. The poor, as well as students who were stranded in the city, were provided with food. Yati soon realised that everyone could not come to the kitchens to have food. Thus, they began to distribute dry rations. They supplied dry rations to 1,000 families daily. The provisions comprised pulses, rice and wheat. The team worked almost round the clock. The extreme heat of May that melted the thoroughfares in the city failed to deter them.
One day, one of Yati’s friends informed him about the families of those who were in jails. Yati says it was difficult to cover the entire city. So, he chose three police stations—Chunabhatti, Kolar and Shahpura. He collected a list of those who were in prisons from those areas. As he was surveying those places, he was shocked to know that 34 families had been starving for several days. That broke his heart. There were 14 such families whose conditions were worse because of some unforeseen events. The team, then, braced themselves to feed those 48 families as long as the lockdown would continue. Yati says his team gave rations and other items of daily need to those 48 families throughout the lockdown. He says the lockdown came as a double whammy for those families.
On the one hand, they had no income, and, on the other, people considered them untouchables as they were related to the prisoners. Even their neighbours fought shy of them. Against this backdrop, when Yati’s team reached the doors of those families with rations, the women snivelled. He says he had given his phone numbers to them so that they might call him up for rations. Yati says he is still associated with those families, although one year has passed since the long haul of lockdown was declared. He says someone from their families may be in jail, but all are not at fault. So, they should not go hungry. And this was the reason that actually encouraged him to work for those people.
The work went on with the blessings of God. One day, he came across a few policemen working in the scorching heat. Yati thought he should do something for the cops. No sooner had the thought occurred to him than he began to act. He supplied water bottles and lunch packets to policemen who were working in the Kolar area.
In the meantime, the migrant workers began to return to their homes. Many of them walked barefoot. Yati’s team supplied them with slippers. He says they did that work for over a month. Help came streaming from various quarters. When the hungry get food, their eyes shine with happiness. Those shinning eyes gave the real satisfaction to the entire team. Yati says that pleasure makes him smile in hard times. And that is the real bliss!