Focusing On The Elderly During COVID-19 Relief
Hello, friend of Ekta!
We hope you and your loved ones are in good health.
Welcome to the third issue of Voice of Ekta, where we update you on the important news and events at Ekta Parishad India, along with giving you an insight into how we work and what we’ve planned for the near future.
In this issue, we’re giving you a glimpse into the ongoing COVID-19 relief work specific to the elderly in rural India, announcing a special film screening and highlighting an important piece of work by Karl-Julius Reubke highlighting Ekta Parishad’s journey towards globalization of solidarity.
Foreword by Rakesh Dixit, State Coordinator from Uttar Pradesh
I started my journey with Ekta Parishad in 1981 as a youth. Now, I am 68 years old. Over the last year, I have focused on helping the elderly among the Sahariya tribe in Jhansi and Lalitpur districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The elderly suffer the most due to migrating families- they are left behind without proper food, health care, financial assistance and livelihood options.
While alone, they often suffer from various illnesses and psychological issues without access to resources that can help. The pandemic has made things much worse- I personally know a few of them who lost their lives due to trauma.
Being a senior leader of Ekta Parishad, I, along with the team, are trying our best to reach out to the elderly and help them in the best way possible.
Ekta Parishad’s COVID-19 relief outreach to India’s elderly
Ekta Parishad is very concerned about the elderly who are marginalised within the social strata of marginalised tribes, Dalits and poor communities. There is a strong focus in the entire relief operation to reach out to elderly people who live alone, who suffer from medical conditions without access to proper care, who don't have a secure source of livelihood, who are facing physical challenges and are unable to work, and those who are unable to get access to any State schemes.
Our relief operations have reached out to them to provide support and relief kits with preventive medicine, food materials, etc.
Ekta Parishad has set a target to reach out to nearly 20,000 such identified elderly people. To date, we have already reached out to nearly 40% of these 20,000.
COVID-19 Relief Highlights
Biren Deka and his team are reaching out to the elderly in Tinsukia, Assam
"Two years ago, when I was hospitalised for a serious illness, I saw how old age health issues affect people both physically and psychologically. During COVID-19, I can see a lot of old people in and around my village who are left behind without proper care.
Their needs are largely neglected. With my team in Tinsukia, we are regularly conducting group meetings with the elderly and trying to help them by providing preventive medicine and groceries.
Nowadays, through counselling, we are trying to help them deal with loneliness and encouraging them to feel connected with their surroundings."
Sarju Prasad and his team is working on an elderly-focused relief strategy in Jharkhand
"Can you imagine how an old man feels when all the young members of a migrant family leave him alone at home? After a conversation with Budhan, you can understand the struggles someone in their old age goes through while living alone.", says Sarju Prasad.
Budhan is one of hundreds of old people supported by Ekta Parishad under relief operations in a tribal area of Chatra district in Jharkhand. Sarju Prasad, the State Coordinator of Jharkhand drew a strategy to first focus on the elderly who were largely neglected and whose needs weren’t being addressed.
In the Chatra district alone, the team has a plan to reach out to 400 people and assist them with food material and preventive medicine.
Stories From The Grassroots: The Impact Of COVID-19 On The Elderly
Chanmunder Devi from Naubatpur, Bihar
"I am 65 years old and a widow. I belong to the Mushar (Dalit) community. I live alone here in Naubatpur. Though I am entitled to get benefits of schemes created for helping the elderly like me, having no help and being unable to read or write, my requests go unheard.
Today, I survive by doing rag-picking and selling it to the local traders. After the pandemic, there was a dire shortage of food in my home.
Although Ekta Parishad is providing us with ration and help with vaccinations, where is the support from the State for people like us?"
Andho Devi from Damoh, Madhya Pradesh
"My name is Andho Devi and I belong to a tribal community. I’m 68 years old and live in Phular village with my husband. I am unable to work in the field as other women do in my village.
But people say that I’m a good folk singer. I love singing folk songs and feel honoured when people reward me for my songs with a few rupees. This was my only source of livelihood over the last few years.
Although there is no support from the Government, Nirbhay Singh from Ekta Parishad provided me with a few goats last year. My husband and I now have a reliable source of earning. This year too, I got support through a food kit from the Ekta Parishad team. I cannot see, but can feel the emotions of other people like me who have received relief materials during a hard time of the pandemic."
Sriram Koiyon from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Leela is an 85-year-old woman in Pankode in the Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. She is one of hundreds who have been fighting for their land rights for years. She hasn’t received the benefits of the Government schemes in Kerala.
Leela’s family is among the hundreds in Kerala who have received support through ration under relief work conducted by Ekta Parishad members.
Remembering Arjun Das, a beloved activist from Surguja, Chhattisgarh
We are proud of you, Arjun Das Ji. Several success stories of your devoted social work are still alive with all of us here in Surguja.
Arjun Bhai worked with Ekta Parishad for three decades. We still remember how dedicated Arjun Bhai was to his work of ensuring that preventive medicine reaches the elderly. He was always keen to reach out to the people whose voices are rarely heard.
Arjun was an extremely popular social activist in the Udaipur block of the tribal-dominated Surguja district. He was one of our senior activists who passed away during the pandemic. Till the very last day of his life, Arjun worked tirelessly with and for the people, especially the elderly in rural areas.
Struggle for Peace & Justice: Karl- Julius Reubke’s reflections of 20 years
Karl-Julius Reubke was born just before the outbreak of World War II. Belonging to the generation of ‘Krieg Kinder’ (war child), his childhood and primary education was not straightforward and he was a convinced pacifist. Out of his two main objects of interest- natural science and epistemology or languages, he chose the former for a profession, cultivating the second all through his career as a research chemist.
Since 1975, India has become one of his main themes of interest. He is a voracious reader. After retirement he turned to writing, teaching and travelling, mainly to India and Thailand. Ever since he met P V Rajagopal in 2001, he followed closely all the moves and development of the Ekta Parishad movement.
Through his book “Struggle for Peace & Justice” Dr Julius brilliantly writes about Ekta Parishad’s long journey towards globalization of solidarity.
You can buy the book here.
Announcing the release of “Shramdaan”, an Ekta Parishad film on community labor
We invite you to the online screening of the film "Shramdaan", a short film based on community labor. Presented by Ekta Parishad and crafted by Varun R, "Shramdaan '' explores how community labor is assisting in challenging the problem of migration in rural communities.
Shramdaans were incorporated by Ekta Parishad in the mitigation strategies across five states as a response to the migratory crisis caused by COVID-19. Through the lens of a meticulous film maker, the movie explores various facets of the deep rooted culture of community labour.
Stay tuned for updates on the screening time and venue!
Learn how to support Ekta Parishad here.
From Ramesh Sharma, General Secretary of Ekta Parishad