Mumbai: When the country went under lockdown, 3,500 tribal families living in Aarey forest and 550 in Borivali’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park are facing additional crisis - the men in these families who were mostly daily wagers, lose their livelihood, bus services in Aarey got suspended and SGNP’s gates were closed, virtually cutting them off with the outer world.

There are 11 tribal hamlets in the national park where people live without electricity and the nearest grocery shop was 2.5 kms away.

“Private vehicles are not allowed even otherwise since it is a national park, though tourist vehicles are allowed. Usually, they just to hitch-hike rides with forest staff to reach their hamlets. But with the gates closing, they were locked in,” said Nalini Bujhad, a tribal whose relatives live in SGNP hamlets.

Nalini contacted Cassandra Nazareth of Nazareth Foundation for help since she had worked with her before. The foundation, which has been working for women empowerment through entrepreneurship in these hamlets, started a crowdfunding initiative on March 25.

Till Sunday, it managed to collect over Rs 4.85 lakh and help tribal families living in these disconnected areas with over 1,700 food hampers. The hampers which contain rice, wheat, dal, salt, chilli powder and veggies cost around Rs 600 each.

Leaving no stone unturned, they have given varied payment options for those who wish to donate and used all possible social media platforms to put the word out.

“Students of an IT college got to know of the initiative through our Facebook page and sponsored two villages. A number of charitable foundations also came forward,” Mahesh Baraliya, a volunteer with the foundation, said. “Logistics would have been an issue. But we were lucky to have this one tempo which has stuck by us all these days,” says Baraliya.

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Free Press Journal