What Little More Can We Do to Help the Homeless People this Winter!

Shared few years back on my Facebook timeline! I feel the relevance and hence sharing with you all (unedited)!

This time in Delhi is extremely cold and everyone feels it. As per some reports, in 2014-15, more than 450 people died due to cold in North India. But is it actually low temperature that kills people?

I do not think so.

No one dies of low temperature. People die due to lack of food, clothes and shelter. People die because we do not know how to help each other in need. If a rich person meets a car accident near a slum area, the people in the area will ensure that he is taken to hospital. If a homeless person dies of cold on the street, all those enjoying the luxury ride will hardly give a thought. If you ask them why they did not act, they will say it is the duty of the government, not theirs. This is true most of the time. You may remember the incident that happened few years back when a pregnant woman gave birth to a child on a street of Delhi and no one helped her. She almost died!

What I believe is if we are ready to help each other, then we can save many lives and transform the city into a truly caring one.

On the morning of 24th December, 2015, I was wondering how I could help the homeless people in Delhi and contribute my bit to make them a little warm in this winter. I literally jumped out of my chair and immediately called up a close friend. The moment I told him this idea, he was in. In the evening, we started knocking every door of our residential building. We politely asked them for old/unused clothes which are still wearable and in good condition. In the beginning, we got nothing. Some people did not open their doors even when we told what we were for. But there were also people who contributed and encouraged our effort. Some people even had their old clothes collected in case someone came or asked. Some told us to come back the next day. We went back the next day and people generously contributed.

I had already done a background study of some NGOs that work for homeless people in Delhi. I also thought on how to distribute it ourselves. Though too idealistic, I wanted to distribute the clothes to homeless people on the streets directly or to people in the slum area and wanted to see the smiles on their face.

So on the night of 25th December, we hired a van and went to the office of Mother NGO and one Ashram (Nirmal Hriday, Majnu Ka Tila). Both the offices were closed. Actually, we talked to one of the representatives of Mother NGO before going there. He did not inform us whether the office would be closed. We also presumed that since they worked for homeless people, they would be open round the clock. For Nirmal Hriday Ashram in Majnu Ka Tila, the gatekeeper of the Ashram did not let us talk to the people of the Ashram since it was late and we were asked to hand over the clothes to him or take back with us. We took the clothes with us.

Undeterred, we considered it an opportunity to directly go to the slum area and try our luck. We went to a slum area near a bridge few meters from the Ashram. There we started distributing the clothes. But due to lack of manpower and limited resource, we could not distribute all the clothes (My friend, the driver and me alone would not be able to manage the crowd). We were afraid that we might create a chaos. When resources are limited and people also know it, chances are that they will compete to grasp it and this is mostly true when the things they are competing for are things they do not have and badly need.

We came back disappointed. The next day, on 26th December, we went to Mother NGO’s office and handed the clothes to Mr. Harish Massey, a representative of the NGO. We were not given any receipt but we took a snap with him.

From what we have experienced, I think that the Government of Delhi, the bureaucracy and the common people can do a lot. The civil societies and NGOs are doing their bit.

As for the Delhi Government, it can launch an initiative like a Youth Leadership Program where young people or students can apply for an internship with the Government to help the homeless. The interns can organize into three-four groups in every locality and collect old/unused clothes as well as food. We can safely presume that every household in Delhi has some old/unused clothes that are unnecessarily occupying their cupboards. They are never going to wear these clothes again. These clothes can make people in need warm. These clothes can save many lives. Many people in Delhi waste a huge quantity of food. University Hostels also do the same. People can be organized to collect the good food to distribute to the hungry and starving people in the street. In this way, it will be an opportunity for the youth to serve the people more or less directly and many lives can also be saved. The government can reward the interns with certain incentives to encourage them. For many people, serving the people might be a reward itself.

The Government can do this by joining hands with NGOs. The collected clothes and food can be handed over to NGOs like Goonj, Uday Foundation, Mother NGO and many other organizations, and these organizations can distribute the clothes and food to the people.

Individual efforts are very limiting. It can be effective when an organization or the Government which has the manpower and resources back individual initiatives and efforts. I personally believe that there are many young people who want to serve the poor and the needy, who want to contribute their bit for a better world for everyone, who are ready to act, given the opportunity.

My friend is a student. I am a student. We could not spend more time. We don’t have a lot of money. All that we did was that we spent three days effectively. In those three days, we could collect a good quantity of clothes. We spent only Rs. 300/- for transport. Yet, we were super happy for what we could do to help homeless people. It may make 20 people warm. Out of hundreds, that’s a very tiny number. However, even if we could make only 2 people warm, we would still do it. The lives of those two counts.

Delhi has a population of more than 16 million and the homeless people account for roughly 50 thousand. Even if one out of hundred people in Delhi contributes one clothe, no people in the city would feel cold, no people in the city would die because of cold.

PS. 1. We got two more small bags of clothes after the photo was taken.
2. We donated the clothes to Mother NGO because the organization is working with the Government of NCT Delhi and sound credible. We earlier contacted Goonj and Uday Foundation through phone calls but we could not reach them.

The Pursuit of a Clean India and Its Enemies

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Thanks to honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ability to spread awareness and reach to large population of the country, the talk of the nation today is about a Clean India. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) has been a game changer at least at our level of consciousness. Initiatives for cleanliness existed earlier as well but hardly anyone knew about any of it. One thing I would like to laud about Mr. Modi and his Government is that people today talk about cleanliness. The politicians, media houses and the people talk about open defecation and keeping cities clean. One notable example in this regard is Akshay Kumar’s “Toilet- Ek Prem Katha” movie. Who would think that we would talk about human excreta at this level?

A great scholar once said that civilization is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta. I can’t agree more. Much of the talk about cleanliness in India is about ending open defecation. The core objective of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is also to make India open defecation free by 2019. Despite areas to be improved, we are moving towards the right path.

But let’s not limit our discussion on Clean India to building toilets and covering shit. Let’s talk about clean roads, clean public toilets, clean government office buildings, and more importantly a clean air as well.

Image: Source

In a landmark development, the Supreme Court of India has banned the sale of fire crackers in Delhi till November 1 of this year. The ban means that people won’t be able to buy fire crackers in Delhi and this may positively limit Delhites firing crazy amount of crackers during Diwali, a religious festival of Hindus, that falls in the third week of October this year. Having lived in Delhi for quite some time, I know the pollution level Delhites are compelled to face post Diwali festival. Last year (2016), there was high level of pollution during Diwali and men, women, children all had to wear pollution masks for many days. Doctors and health experts predicted rise in pulmonary, respiratory and other air pollution-related diseases. People were advised to stay indoors. Many people protested against the rise of pollution level in the atmosphere.

But the irony is: some people are again criticizing the Supreme Court’s order to ban on the sale of fire crackers during Diwali this year. Some politicians are even inviting Delhites to come to their state and fire crackers to their satisfaction! Some religious figures are saying that the Supreme Court’s order is anti-Hindu! What has become of these so-called ‘leaders’?

I agree that fire crackers are not the only cause of rise in air pollution in Delhi. But, we all should agree that it hugely contributes to the rising air pollution in the capital. Moreover, fire crackers cause not only air pollution but noise pollution as well and make the streets of Delhi extremely dirty. Besides, while most of us are sleeping after a night of celebration, many municipal workers have to wake up and clean the mess created by these senseless people amidst high level of pollution. These workers do not wear any pollution masks and their health is in risk. Who cares for them? None.

The deafening sound of firing crackers also disturb not only humans but animals and birds as well. In all, there is a huge environmental impact of our insensible celebration of this beautiful festival. This festival is supposed to be a peaceful festival of lights and not a war-like festival of bombs. If Lord Rama would be visiting India during Diwali, we would not want to see Him wear pollution masks and put cotton balls in His ears. Personally, I would want Him to come with a beautiful smile, peacefully, without any jump in between when He hears explosion of crackers and bombs, and blessing us freely, not closing His nose with one hand because of the smoke from the crackers. I hope all Hindu brothers and sisters wish the same.

I am of the view that the remarks of certain section of uneducated politicians and communal babas are essentially against the larger interest of the people and the nation. They are inciting people to do what is repudiated as wrongful by the highest court of the country. They are leading the people toward the wrong path. Their statements are against the essence of Clean India Campaign, a flagship program of the Narendra Modi Government, against the welfare of the people in terms of living a healthy and environmentally clean life. They want us to live dirty.

The nation as a collective should strongly reject their communal and politically motivated statements. I would strongly urge the Prime Minister to condemn such statements. The administrative machinery of the country should also effectively communicate to the people why such a ban is necessary and how this, in fact, is for their own good. This ban is of urgent need if we want to save Delhi from the rising air pollution and the related health risk. We should not let these enemies of a united and, yes, Clean India walk through our mind with their dirty feet.

Be clean and remain away from filthy mind! An advance Happy Diwali!