Authors – Chitta Venkata Siva Prasad, Bhadradri Kothagudem, Telangana
Guthi koyas also known as Muria Gonds live in interior habitations of Bhadradri kothagudem. This community has a long history of migration from Chhattisgarh because of the unrest created by Salwa Judum operation and in the search of livelihood. The community lives in very interior and remote habitations of the district and depend heavily on daily wage labour. As this community has migrated from another state, many people are yet to be issued ration cards. The district of Bhadradri Kothagudem has close to 25000 people belonging to this community out of which close to 60% of the people do not have access to ration cards.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all the daily wage livelihood options saw an immediate shutdown. This community relying heavily on daily wages got hit the most. The stock of ration available in their houses was running out and there was no source of income to buy new ration. Due to the lockdown, it became even more difficult to buy vegetables and other essential commodities. Immediate help in terms of ration was needed to avoid one of our worst fears – starvation death. District administration decided to provide dry rations i.e. Daal and rice to these communities along with the free ration promised by the state government to help them cope with this pandemic. We also distributed vegetables wherever there was a possibility to do so.
We started the exercise of listing each individual from these communities who did not have a ration card. We took the help of interior habitation community health workers (trained by the medical department of the district) to identify such people and estimated the quantities that we would be requiring to fulfil their needs. Once the need was identified (14,000 Kgs of rice & 1000 Kgs of Daal), we started approaching the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agencies such as Akshya patra foundation, to check if they can support the district with such a huge need. We also approached many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to facilitate the same. A group of CSOs including Rural hope foundation, Robin Hood Army and Indigenous Development Organisation from Hyderabad played a major role in identifying the potential donors. With the help of these CSOs, we collected multiple individual donations, which were enough to buy the ration.
After arranging for enough donations, we got in touch with multiple dealers in the district who could provide a good price for the rations we had to procure. Only Local dealers were to be approached as procuring the ration from within the district became the need of the hour due to the lockdown. We took the guidance of the District Collector, Assistant collector and Tehsildars to finalise the procurement. Next we arranged for vehicles which would do all of our deliveries and identified a local resource person from the community who knew about the whereabouts of all these locations. After all this, we ensured that we have all the required permissions from the police department to travel to these areas, as many of these areas lie in the extremely sensitive zones of the district.
We finally distributed 13,960 Kgs of Rice and 1006 Kgs of Daal and reached out to 2326 beneficiaries in a weeks’ time. This ration distributed is free of any costs. Planning and mapping of resources for the rest of the habitations is under process. We took a lot of help and guidance from the District Collector , Assistant collector , Police department, Tehsildars of the mandals, Revenue staff of the mandals, interior habitation community health workers, Individual donors and CSOs to achieve this humongous task.