Community Cares: A City Responds
Rohini Nilekani moderates a conversation between one the community response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists include Anshu Gupta, Nalini Sekhar and Kuldeep Dantewadia.
00:02 Rohini Nilekani: Well. Hello everybody. Yellarigu namaskara, yellarigu suswagatha. This is the first of the BIC’s live streams, and normally, of course, all of us would have been in that marvelous auditorium at BIC, very close to each other. But this COVID times calls for us to do old things in new ways, and we have to keep focusing on the opportunities that that provides. As we all know, this pandemic has really allowed us to sort of dip into our deepest fears and also face our most slightest hopes I feel sometimes. Both fear and hope are constantly battling in our minds and hearts.
00:48 RN: And today we are going to focus on the hope thought. It’s allowed us this pandemic to also understand exactly how interdependent we all are and how interdependent the globe is and has become increasingly over the last few years. And all these years, people like us, the elite, we have been able to secede from so many things. We’ve seceded from all public infrastructure. We have put our kids into private schools, so on and so on. Whether it’s schools, electricity, water, transport. We’ve been in our bubbles, we’ve been able to do that. But things like this pandemic, things like air pollution have taught us that we cannot secede anymore, that we are all connected, and we have to find ways to be creatively engaged.
01:34 RN: Of course, Bangalore, I truly believe, is always at the forefront of all innovation in these matters. Whether it is to do with culture. I think the intellectual capital, I think of course when it comes to technology, when it comes to even philanthropy and not just philanthropy of the wealthy, but the philanthropy, which is the human connect that ordinary and all citizens show in the city, which is why they’ve called it a city response. So, today we have with us three very interesting people who are going to talk of their work following the pandemic, how they have responded, why they think their work is important. And it gives all of us an opportunity to contribute, to connect, to understand what all of us can do so that everyone can get past this crisis sooner rather than later.
02:25 RN: We have with us today, Anshu Gupta, we have Nalini Shekar, and we have Kuldeep Dantewadia from three different organisations doing many different things. And each one is going to tell us what they are doing, and then we are going to also have an interaction between them. I’ll ask a few more questions. Meanwhile, you can keep writing out your questions. I’ll keep an eye on what you’re asking. And the last 10 minutes, I will pose your questions to the three panelists. So I hope you are going to stay engaged throughout this. We are trying a new format. We need all your support, and now I’m going to turn it over to our panelists. Anshu Gupta of Goonj. So, Anshu, I’m handing over to you. Can you take five minutes to tell us what Goonj, which is always been so different in terms of what it does. It does not call charity, but rather a fair exchange. Please tell us Anshu, what are you doing and how can we help?
03:23 Anshu Gupta: So I think the most important part about this disaster to understand is that this is not a disaster like any other disaster, which we have handled so far. I mean, that’s what we’ve been talking in the team, that every single disaster, all of our stores, all of our offices used to be absolutely open. We used to work 24/7 in our stores or in the field. And now this is one disaster where every single thing has to be done in a totally, totally different way. And this is one disaster unlike any tsunami or say flood or earthquake, which happens in a few seconds or for a few days, and then the recovery starts happening. But this is one disaster, which is still unfolding. And this is one at least in my lifetime, in the last, you know, so many decades, this is the first disaster of this scale, which is Pan India, Pan Globe.
04:16 AG: So first is that we all need to understand that it is absolutely different. It has much deeper impact. And there’s a second phase of the disaster, which is the economic issues, which will come up when we all open up and when we are comparatively free of virus. And then in India also if you see the displacement became one of the much bigger disaster for the time being, than the virus because… And that also shows to be honest for all of us, it’s a lesson that how do we really treat the fellow citizens because or maybe how badly we have treated the fellow citizens that they didn’t even trust us for a minute. I mean, imagine someone knows that that person has to walk with the family, with a kid on the shoulder for a few hundred kilometers without any food. And that person does not even think twice. And he starts moving.
05:15 AG: So personally, after two decades of our work and knowing the people, whatever little we know, that this is one of the most painful aspect of our own life, that are we not even able to secure fellow citizens, whether it is the government, it is the institutions, it’s the organisation, which are employing people is the next door neighbour. I am there, I mean, why do you really start walking? So when we started the campaign… If some of the people have seen it on the Facebook and social media our campaign, you see the picture in that campaign is people walking, because we did anticipate that a large number of people will go back. We never knew that it will happen in this particular way or it will be so sudden that the major crisis will become ready to eat food. But we knew that there is something wrong going to happen because it is the reverse migration. No one is actually migrating to the city now. Every single person is going back to the root.
06:17 AG: So I think what all of us need to understand is that if we really want to make a dent, a positive one in the life of people, we have to go back to the roots, to the villages, and see what can we do there so that the forced migration, it stops and only the migration by choice happens. In nutshell, just a minute, I mean, what we are doing. In the last two decades of Goonj, we have been able to build up these pipelines or you can say we can spread a grid across the country, which is a grid of the community-based organisations, community workers, the logistics, the material management. So within a week we have been able to start and reach much deeper pockets of about 12 states to start with because that network is absolutely ready with us, which otherwise also used to channelize material and used to engage with the communities.
07:12 AG: So we have just… You can say they’ve switched on the button in a different way. That we are doing this thing on the net, we are doing certain things on the net, but ours is a hardcore logistics operation and disasters need logistics. So we are handling that, but fortunately, that network is ready. And we’re just using, utilizing that network of hundreds of grassroots institutions, newcomers, community workers, logistics partners, and the material has started happening… Has started going to the people. Of course, this is the first time and we also got into running a little bit of kitchen or supporting the kitchens because the instant and immediate food for the next few days till the time people have the facilities to cook for themselves is also important. I will stop here and then maybe I will take more in the Q&A.
08:02 RN: But let me just ask you to say one more very quick thing. So the immediate need is… Just repeat what are the immediate needs that the people have, and therefore what is the immediate contribution we can make?
08:17 AG: So immediate need which people have is the need of survival, which is first time in the shape of the dry ration and to cook food and the small sanitary things like, literally like soap and sanitary pads. Then the second part is also huge need of the tarpaulins or the… Because these large number of people have gone back to the villages where you have more population, less resources now. So you have to make certain arrangements when people are on the road and they’re ultimately settling down in the villages, no one is coming back from the roads towards the cities, that way. So we have to do that, and how people can support. I have been repeating in many forums that Goonj is known for accepting material, but this is first time that we are not accepting any material. Why? Because we don’t need clothes, all that, nothing second hand as of now. We do need money so that a lot can be procured and the procurement has to happen at a very local level to reduce the human touch and logistics. So, that’s where money and large scale materials is important.
09:20 RN: Thank you Anshu and before… I’ll come back to you, of course, and before I move to Nalini, those of you who are tuned in, don’t forget that you can use the Q&A section on the bottom of your screen to type in your questions. Again, thank you Anshu and moving quickly to Nalini. Nalini Shekar of Hasiru Dala. Nalini, can you tell us, you have been working for years with the waste pickers of Bangalore and doing such fantastic work, I think you have had to shift your focus in the last few days and you’ve come together with many other organisations. Please use the next five minutes to tell us what you’re doing? Why you think that is the best response right now? And how all of us can help?
10:04 Nalini Shekar: So Hasiru Dala, of course, is working in Bangalore, not only Bangalore, other cities in Karnataka. So why we had to address this is there was no food for people. We had seen a huge malnourishment as soon as the dals went expensive and during the time when demonetisation was introduced. We had seen so much, so we said, in this time, we just got into action much before. And so what we also believe is giving the ration is much better than just cooked food at that point of time. And so we said, “Okay, this is going to take a long time. What do we do? So one month let us give them the ration.” So that they dignifiedly they take and there’s a dignity in what you… When you give a ration, then stand in a line to get cooked food. Cooked food is necessary in an emergency for one or two days or three days, but after that, we need your dry ration. So we did do that for three, three and a half thousand waste pickers in different cities of Karnataka. For example, in Hubli, they just closed down their landfill. But after that, in Bangalore what happened is there’s a lot of migrants, just not waste pickers and we had to work with other people. So we came up with a group called With Bengaluru in solidarity to the migrant workers and so we started giving them dry ration.
11:36 NS: We first thought we have to give only for those who don’t have ration cards or permanent house, that’s how we started, but now the situation is very different, even the previous system has failed. So we have to support people in every state. And some of the things that we have seen in the last couple of, two weeks, actually, 10 days of the weeks, is there’s a huge population from, who have migrated from north Karnataka because of the floods. They’ve experienced floods and they lost everything they had, so they had to borrow money from neighboring village and they’ve moved here and suddenly again another disaster. This is as Anshu said, this is not a disaster that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen poverty very closely, I’ve seen issues when things have happened and during the riots in Mumbai, but this is very different. There’s also despair, there’s also no hope. “Will we go back home? Will I be alive? Will I be safe.” There’s a lot of emotions that is coming out of people. So when I was talking about this north Karnataka people, like Ambava, Neelamma, all these people have come here and they’ve left their children back home with the older parents who take care of them.
12:52 NS: Now, they can’t go back there nor can they survive here so that has become really a big problem. So, when we give ration, they’re really happy that at least somebody is taking care of them. They feel that this is my home because there is no home for them right now. And even with the food for example, food is very important. You have to give once or twice a day, we have to give cooked food, but the people who are left out in this cooked food is also people who are old and pregnant, and who can’t stand in long lines. So, they are also left out in the whole thing. So we feel that giving a ration kit is the most dignified way of protecting their food security. So With Bengaluru, lot of citizens, groups have come together as a community to address the issue. So the challenges were also because the APMC yards were closed, we couldn’t procure a lot of material in the beginning so we were thinking whether we should give staple or we should give proteins so we made a combination of those.
13:56 NS: But I want to tell, but there’s so much… So many people are coming out to support and more need to come, of course, but I think that is what we are doing. And as Nasiru Dala we did three and a half thousand, with all of us together in Bengaluru with Bengaluru we want to reach 12,000 people. So every day, we want to send out the ration kits as much as possible, so we would love to have people support us with Bengaluru Initiative and also volunteers who will come and pack this material. St Joseph’s college has given their facility. Very happy about it. So we have a decent place where we can actually sit and actually pack. In the beginning, we were sitting in RMC yard and to pack and we were also worried about volunteers and staff coming in an unhygienic condition to work but we are happy St Joseph’s college has given us this space and we need more volunteers.
14:57 RN: Thank you Nalini. Before I turn to Kuldeep, one follow on question is, is there something that people who want to contribute should restrain themselves on? Because I remember during the Tsunami, a lot of unwanted stuff started getting pushed into Tamil Nadu and other places. Is there something we should think of, for example, if you want to contribute should we pace ourselves like should we first ask, “Yes, shall I send X kilos of dry ration?” How would you advise us to do this thing in the most optimal manner? So that you people are also not flooded with unwanted things.
15:34 NS: So for example, today we got a whole shipment of wheat flour. South Indians don’t eat wheat flour and chana dal. They don’t eat chana dal, right? So these are the kind of things that we have to understand and the best thing is actually today to contribute in cash because the restriction of movement is there, logistics are very difficult, even if we have, somebody has to come and drop off ration, they have to have pass permits. If we have to go pick up and come, we have to have permits so there is lot of things that’s why we have centralized certain activity. Small, if there is a pocket with 10 or 15 people, then we can tell the citizens, “Okay, your local groceries, please buy this and give it to them.” So we have tried to do both. And some people like to give it to them themselves. So we’re trying to accommodate both of it.
16:23 NS: One of the things that we definitely feel that you have to think about is the kind of food they eat, for example, we are giving boiled rice and masoor dal for people of North East. We are giving rice and regular dal to people here and North Karnataka people, we are giving wheat flour. So in a place, when a time when there is lot of distress and there is less food, if you change their diet, then you have to run around with their health because their health then becomes really a problem. They’re not used for eating rice, then it becomes a problem. Now, we are giving wheat, they are not used to eating wheat, so we should not have any other health issues because of that, so we are trying to match what they eat, to the extent that is possible.
17:07 RN: Thank you, so much. From what both of you said, what are logistical challenge faces us ahead, thank you we’ll, of course, come back to you and let me turn to you now Kuldeep. Kuldeep Dantewadia runs Reap Benefit, it’s a very innovative idea to get citizens together to solve their own problems. He calls those problem solvers Solve Ninjas. But Kuldeep take five minutes to tell us what’s different about your approach? How much success have you had in the next few days? What you hope to do next and how we can help?
17:42 Kuldeep Dantewadia: So like both Nalini and Anshu, what they shared. This was a very unique situation. The uniqueness was that we couldn’t go out. So we were thinking, “How do we approach this?” And whatever we were reading, I think the first information was that social distancing has to be maintained and while we were speaking to some government officials, what we realised was they were finding it difficult to identify places where social distancing is being maintained and where it is not being maintained. And we also realized that we had lakhs and crores of citizens at their homes wanting to do something and they couldn’t go out, right? So there was also huge opportunity that way so the first thing what we tried to do was like most Bangaloreans try to put something as a technology platform in place, break the information barrier so we started crowdsourcing the testing centers, the first respondents and things like that. The second thing was we were thinking what can be a low friction thing wherein the citizen gets engaged? So we said, “Okay, when you’re going to buy essentials, at least start reporting if social distancing is happening or not, right? And try to create hotspot, so that if and when the government sees that, they can decide where to invest their manpower in bringing about more awareness.”
19:05 KD: One thing led to another. We then started… A lot of people started reaching out and saying that, “Yes, while we don’t have passes and we can’t go out, within our community there are people who need support.” So we said, “Okay, let’s do hyper-local mapping and matching, wherein that last mile delivery until the government sets up its systems can be taken care of. So, people just started reporting within their areas what support they need and you don’t even need a volunteer, you can just go outside your street, hand that thing over and come back. So that type of matching started happening, and now we are able to see some form of last mile delivery and we’re getting very interesting data. So for example, yesterday somebody gave us construction sites in the country, so we could identify migrant labourers there immediately. So it was a combination of technology, using our community as a grid or our locality as a grid, and what is the best we can do. So that was our larger approach.
20:05 KD: In the medium-term, long-term what we’re seeing is like there will be a huge issue of last mile delivery. So the more the information is local in nature, and the more we have local people who understand the local context, that’s going to probably play a very assistive role for the governments to deliver these services, but even for the citizens to take the services from the government. So that’s where we are working towards and preparing for, once the lockdown is over. And then obviously there are lots of initiatives in Bangalore wherein we’re trying to help in that last mile connectivity.
20:41 RN: Kuldeep, give me some anecdotes or some instances of how your Solve Ninjas have got together in an innovative way at this time? Because we’ve all had to rethink what we can do, right? Give me some instances to make what you’re doing more clear to all of us.
20:56 KD: Yeah, so the first instances about this hyper-local connection, right? So a young ninja in her area, Suchitra is her name, comes from a low-income government school and we reach out to our ninjas saying, “Here is a problem and this is how you can contribute.” And she sees about 10 migrant labourers in a construction site close by. So she gets her mother involved, talks to them. Of course, there was a language barrier and it’s interesting how they broke that language barrier. She reports it to us that this is the requirement and immediately, once we put the requirement, we were flooded with people supporting friends, family members, people in the community, and we gave that person a month of ration and some sanitary equipments.
21:39 KD: On the other hand, very interesting thing. Again, the power of sometimes being in Bangalore, while we were trying to report and create this platform together, we got a lot of young ninjas who worked backwards and helped us in coding some of the dashboard technology, in helping us reverse code and come up with geo-locations, how to get lat long, get the best practices. So, in a way we were able to get the best of both worlds. One was the intellect power and one was the hyper-local power, and both were done by young people who right now are a huge captive audience and have the energy and wanting to do something.
22:16 RN: Thank you, I think this really makes me feel that the fact that we have so many young people in this country because young people all have energy, they’ve idealism and they’re also the digital generation so we can use technology as a backbone for all the social outreach that we have to do. Earlier in the social sector we used to say, “We must do high-tech with high-touch.” Now we are going to have to say, “We have to do high-tech with low-touch,” because of social distancing norms. So that gives another opportunity to be creatively engaged. Thank you for that. Before I go back to the three of you for a quick follow-on, people have been asking, tell us, in the questions they’ve been asking, “Where can we donate? Give us information.” And I think already BIC has started putting that information. If you go to your chat call at the bottom of your screen, there is a chat icon, if you go to that some links are showing up, even afterwards BIC has promised that we will continue to share with you links to the good work that is happening so that you all can contribute.
23:22 RN: Anshu, let me come back to you to ask you about… So we are talking right now about what Samaaj can do and what you people are doing in the samaaj sector? Can you quickly tell us what you think the bazaar, that is, corporations, businesses, and Sarkar, which is government at different levels, Panchayat, State and Center, what… And I know it’s a big question, and I need a short answer. What do you need bazaar and Sarkar to do in the short-term and the medium-term?
23:52 AG: So short-term and medium-term both, I think, we really, really need to change the way we operated in other disasters. So this is not the time when we ask for a picture, we ask for a pose, we ask for a project, project. How many people will you leave, will you reach and all? Because right now for millions it’s a question of survival also. Also let’s understand the larger impact of it, because right now whole lot of us are looking at the hunger in the cities or of the migrant labourers, but I’m saying again and again to many of our corporate friends and also the friends in government that for few days we have to settle down with this reality of feeding people, but as Nalini also said that we have to move to the other needs of the people, and all these people who have gone on the roads, and is still stuck on the roads or at the border, ultimately are going to settle down for some time till the time the business comes back and things become normal in the villages. So the rural India for the corporate and for the government, to be honest, need much, much more attention.
24:53 AG: I’m not saying we have to ignore cities because every single person who’s a needy is a needy, as of now, and needy right now also stays in the Pucca houses. Fine? It’s not like, I mean, I remember… Today only I was talking to my team, Sarita Vihar where we have an office in Delhi, and all these 20 offices we have, many of these offices are in the city, but if I see my locality of Sarita Vihar in Delhi, I believe in that Madanpur Khadar area, we are the center, almost 70%, 80% will not have enough money to eat next month if they’re not paid by their institutions. So, even those people are in the need right now, that way. So much larger target audience, much deeper work in the villages of India. I think that is a need of the hour of the corporates and the government.
25:45 RN: Thank you so much, it is such an important point to make, you know that sometimes all this while CSR has been tried to be done in areas near the fact. Today we have to think of all of India as our backyard, all of India has to be looked at as a whole and we have to focus on where people are going to, because their idea of home and the idea of opportunity has suddenly shifted. So our mindset has to shift to that. Thank you for that, Anshu. There are many people on YouTube with us today and I’m very excited about that, so I just wanna give a high five to all of you who have taken the time to join us on YouTube as well and let me quickly turn to you Nalini. We don’t have too much time. Nalini, how do we start thinking? I mean, all your people, the West… Because you have been working with… Everybody must be really concerned about livelihood, right? So can you tell me how are you working with your people to think through that and what can be done in the medium-term?
26:47 NS: So the whole recycling industry has stopped because… So if the recycling industry is stopped, then back… If you go back, waste pickers has nothing. Waste pickers, scrap dealer, or our dry waste collection center, or our systems of waste management in the city, everything is gone. So it’ll take a long time for that to come back, maybe a month, even after the whole issue of 21 days is over. It’ll take one or two, probably, months for them to come back. So we have to look at medium and long term strategies working with the government. It is also very clear, this episode is very clear, just livelihood is not enough. We need to have social security. In our country, we still don’t have living wages. So social security and livelihood has to go hand-in-hand. One thing we really realized. Last 10 years we have been working, very few waste pickers didn’t have… Who are locals, didn’t have ration cards, for example. Their situation is much better than the migrant waste picker. So we have to… Long-term, we also have to look at, as a government, how waste pickers or any other migrant labor, we continue to provide social security even if they move out of their place and come to the city, because finally, they are the intra-economy of the city.
28:23 RN: Yes. Thank you, Nalini. Lot of questions for us to ponder as a society about our social safety nets and the role they are going to play in this new normal. Kuldeep, I am turning to you with a question from one of our participants that young people have more free time now because they are stuck at home. And the young and the restless, are they offering more volunteer time? And if so, are you able to use that potential volunteer time well? That’s the question from one of our participants.
28:57 KD: So yes and no, both, I would put it that way. Yes, lot of young people are coming forward. But like I said, it’s a unique situation because you’re not able to go out. So there is a certain limitation in how they’re… They can be involved at this point. But yes, like I said previously, the best way is to engage at a local level. So one of the things we are trying to do now is, we have this base of 20,000 young people. And we are asking them to get in touch with under-served communities they are directly in touch with or if they’re a part of and start collecting information around what support they need and how we can help them. So we have, out of these 20,000 young people, some of them come from low-income communities and some of them don’t come from that space. So in a way, we are integrating both these places together and using this opportunity to collect this information, so that we can be better prepared to serve once this lockdown is over. But also with young people, there is also a lot of parental control at this point in going out and volunteering. And very interesting statistic is that, while a lot of people sign up, eventually, there is a certain romance about volunteering, there is also significant dropout. So ultimately, very few people have that muscle of actually going and doing something.
30:21 RN: Yeah. Thank you. And that’s a good reminder to absolutely all of us that what we are experiencing is a marathon. And we cannot afford to just be doing a sprint. So we have to really pace ourselves. Just even when we think of lockdown, it may last for some time. We have to have the patience, whether we want to be contributors. It’s not just giving right now, when we are feeling the need to reach out, but staying the course. Because the effect of this difficult time on people are going to last even post-virus or even if you find the vaccine, even if some miracle happens. So if we can pace ourselves, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ll ask… There are some questions coming in. Two or three of them I’m combining. Anshu, you opened with this saying, “There has been a sort of break down of trust.” You asked a very important question. How come those people who are migrants, staying in the cities could not trust us for even five days that they felt that to immediately get out and go home? And home was safety, however far it was. Is there some way to build back trust? I know, it’s a… Two, three people have asked similar questions. So I want you to take this, Anshu. And then if either of you want to say anything, that’s fine. Is there some way we can start building back trust in times of a crisis?
31:42 AG: I think…
31:42 RN: Sorry. Can the crisis itself be the opportunity?
31:46 AG: Absolutely. It is a big opportunity. And I think what we need to understand that… First of all, we have to really remove the very demeaning words like bechara, besahara, gaonwala, anpadh… Beneficiary, all that kind of thing. Now, the becharas are us. Fine? [chuckle] I mean we all know.
32:05 RN: Yes.
32:06 AG: We all know exactly. So I think it’s important that we remove these kind of vocabulary, and the words, and the thought process. That’s extremely important, which has to change fundamentally, number one. Number two, we just can’t use the people when we really, really need them. I know the compulsion is there. And now, again, the factories will call these people and again the construction sites will call these people. And people have no option, but to come back. And then we again start literally exploiting them the way we’ve been exploiting. I would say very simply, if we really have to bring the trust back of the people, if lot of people would have called up their people. I can give you a very simple example. Goonj has 1,000 plus people, pan India, and a large number of them are literally the daily wagers or the piece-rate people.
32:56 AG: I’m happy to say that not even a single person actually went on the road, because we just made sure that we reached out to them and say that your food is secured. That’s it. How much a family needs to really survive, 2,000 rupees worth of food maximum for a month. Are we not even able to do that? And now we are doing the social service by reaching out to people serving on the road. It was very easy for many of us, including the government, the corporates, the industry, the institutions to stop that time, reach out to them and say, “Boss, you are there for us, we are there.” It’s we, it’s not me and you. Why were these people walking? We need to really make sure that we don’t use people now.
33:45 RN: Thank you, Anshu.
33:46 AG: You operate like a fellow citizen.
33:48 RN: Thank you so much. So new opportunities to really think deeply, because when trust breaks down between various samaaj, bazaar, sarkar. In times of crisis, that really becomes your Achilles heel, your weakest link, and build… Let’s use this opportunity to build back trust by doing some introspection. We have only five minutes left. Let me take a couple of… Try to paraphrase a couple of questions from the audience. Can you all, Nalini and Kuldeep, and even Anshu, very briefly, how are you using technology for efficiency? Start with Nalini. Are you using technology so that you are rationalizing, optimizing resources, and also allowing a public-facing technology so people know what to do, what to give, when to give, where to give, what to do?
34:37 NS: Yeah, the most of the money has come on online donation. That is totally it. And it just not about putting it online. But we have to follow up with what we have done with the money. All that kind of things is gone on the social media, every day it has been going, which is not something that we regularly do. And then, of course we work with Kuldeep and his team to see if there is any replication of request that have come because there are a lot of NGOs asking us, we want ration for these people because they are also desperate. Whichever sources there is available, they put application everywhere. So how we bring everybody together to see there is no replication, for example. So Kuldeep and team has done that.
35:25 RN: Thank you.
35:26 NS: So, yeah.
35:29 RN: Kuldeep, quickly, because I want one last question before we close. Kuldeep, it should be on technology.
35:33 KD: Yeah, so I’ll use the technology part to also respond with the trust part. I think two things we are learning, Rohini. One is trust can be built with radical transparency from samaaj, sarkar and bazaar. And the other thing we’re learning is, what technology is helping us do is, it’s trying to decentralize capacity. So suddenly, there is… We are always talking about authority. And this experience is making me learn that the more centralized an authority is, the systems become fragile in nature. Right? And technology is helping us decentralize capacity. We are decentralizing knowledge and information. But if we can start decentralizing capacity, and I hope this issue makes us learn that, then trust can be built very, very easily. So technology, decentralizing capacity can lead to trust with honest intention and transparency. So that’s the role of technology.
36:32 RN: Thank you so much. Very important for us to remember that, this is the time for us to demonstrate the power of local. That whole thing about, Think Global, Act Local, act in context, and build community. That’s so important even though with social distance. Thank you for that reminder. And that technology can help. There are many questions, but I have been asked to have a hard stop at about, in another four or five minutes. I can’t leave without asking all three of you to tell us, you all are busy, you are engaged, you are committed, you are doing stuff. You are probably having sleepless nights. How do you cope? How does this… People like you in the social sector cope? Because many world-wide… Just recently a lot of surveys have been done, about something that all of us don’t think about much. That just like we know that when there’s a terminally ill patient, that someone who cares, looks after him, and that caregiver himself is vulnerable. You people are the caregivers of society and you are vulnerable to all sorts of stresses. All three of you, very quickly, how do you keep yourself sane, optimistic, so that we can learn from you. Anshu, starting with you.
37:48 AG: I think the… It’s just the kick that there is lot to do. And also, we are now innovating ourselves, we are reimagining, rethinking about ourselves. You asked about technology, and I’ll give you a very simple example. That making the WhatsApp groups of our… The larger group, the larger piece rate people, the sorting people and all. And then because we thought that they are very vulnerable, the family of five to six are actually living in a room of six by eight, eight by 10. So after two months, they are the most vulnerable people. And reaching out to them, and with the lessons for their kids and all that kind of thing, I think those are the things which are happening. Complicated for sure right now, tough for sure because specially when you work pan India or… So there are… What you hear is just the news of distress somewhere. But then you know that there is so much to do, so I don’t think that right now there is time to think about it. We’re happy. This is going on.
38:50 RN: Okay. Ravi Chander of BIC just told me that we can go on till 7:30. So Nalini, you have an extra 30 seconds. And then I’m also going to take a couple of the questions from the audience. Yeah.
38:55 NS: I think the energy comes in because there are lot of people who’ve gotten involved. Whether it is citizens, children, our own staff, who are there. They give a lot of energy. For me the best de-stressor is, when I’m really stressed, I sit with 10 women waste pickers and have a lot of chat for half an hour and I’m fine for next two months. So that’s my de-stressor. So it is always when you’re working with people, spend some time with them, you give energy and they give you energy, that’s all.
38:55 RN: Thank you. Beautifully said. Kuldeep.
39:39 KD: I think too, I’ve realized the power of people, and the audience we work with. I think that gives a lot of energy, and also makes you think in a different way. And then if I’m too stuck in life and if I meet Anshu somewhere, that also becomes a great de-stressor for me. So I’m good on both sides. [chuckle]
40:00 RN: Thank you. Thank you for that. Something for us to think about. The audience, participants want to know, I think about how people should optimise their giving? Because the Prime Minister CARES thing is there, and there’s a lot of appeal to put money there. And then our local NGOs are asking for our money. We seem to have demands from a lot of sources. Anshu, how are we… How should we think through, how to apportion all these resources, our own limited resources?” That’s what the question is.
40:32 AG: So I think this is also about… This is the time for the voluntary sector, and I’m really happy and I’m so proud to belong to this particular sector, which is a development sector which always has been really… Get all kind of thrashing from all across the world. Where the people who support, they support, but otherwise so much of thrashing. And if you see the people who are not trained, who also are absolutely exactly at the risk, who are very emotionally-driven. People from the social sector all across the country and the globe, are actually at the absolutely forefront of it. They hardly have resources. Their families are at stake. Our children are also there. For the last few days, just before this, we were working in the Delhi’s violence affected area. And I was there.
41:24 AG: So I’m actually advised to remain at home, can’t move out because of all those symptoms and all, which otherwise we used to always behave or feel that these are normal symptoms. But now if you sneeze there is a… You have to be confined and isolate and all that. So I’m also going through that. But I see my team. I see hundreds of small and big institutions. I see hundreds of crazy individuals who are just in the society to do something. So I believe that they are the foot soldiers, and they need to be, for sure, supported a lot because they are the delivery people, they do the instant delivery in that way. So, one can decide where the money or the resource should go. One can… That is, obviously, we can’t control that. Every single individual has to put in his mind, his thought and all that. But what I can say is that the people at the forefront, people… The foot soldiers, the delivery is there, is instant and is very deep, is exactly to the people, immediately what is needed.
42:30 RN: Anshu, one more question which I think you will be able to answer, because you look at the nationwide level, people… One of our participants is saying, and a couple of them are saying, what about the health care needs of all these migrants, the labour… Nalini, your labour, the people you work with. What about their health care? Maybe even outside COVID, there are so many other things that are health needs. What is going on, and what can be done? Again briefly, please.
42:57 AG: So right now, I don’t think there is much happening in that because the whole issue is… Basically much larger issue is something different. I’m just hoping with this disaster that in the time to come, the health system in India will really improve. And the fact also that a lot of things which as a nation we ignored, like if you talk about the entire government health system, government hospitals, government schools, social sector, we grossly ignored. I think this is the time when all these people have shown that how important they are in a huge country like India. So I’m hoping that things will improve and will remain improved. As of now, of course, the entire, entire focus is totally, totally different. People who are walking few hundred kilometres, and if we do not take care of their literally little bit of well-being at least… At least their stomach is full and they have a small roof. Then with this peak heats, which are going to come now, the things are going to be much more complicated, that way.
44:00 RN: Okay. Yes, thank you for reminding us of that. Very quickly, Nalini, many people are asking, “How much does it take to feed a family of two, or four, or five?” Just give a quick number.
44:11 NS: Two thousand rupees a month.
44:13 RN: Two thousand rupees per month per family.
44:15 NS: That is… Yeah.
44:17 RN: Okay.
44:17 NS: That is the basic staple food and a little bit of protein.
44:21 RN: Okay. Kuldeep, I’m picking up from some questions of the participants that now the whole PM relief funds and the PM CARES, etcetera, there’s not that much transparency as much as citizens would like, and people want transparency. We want to see impact. When we give, we want to see, what’s going on, what is the impact, what is the effect. How do you think more transparency can be brought about as people start to give more and engage more?
44:52 KD: So one is… Yes, one can obviously give money but I would highly recommend everybody to give their time. Once go out in their locality, in their community, connect back to people in their village and give their time. I think that’s very, very important once this thing subsides. I think the other thing, and we are working with another wonderful organization in Delhi, Indus Action and we’re trying to build a national dashboard wherein we map all the schemes. Because if you look at the schemes, you’re talking about more than 2 lakh crores in the country. So if the civil society can play an assistant role from a demand and supply side both, and get citizens involved, people actually getting their entitlements, or receiving their schemes. And if we can have transparency around that, then this will go a long way. So we’re thinking of building a national dashboard, putting down all the schemes, and then playing the connector role between civil society, government and the citizens, so that they can be delivered efficiently and effectively.
45:37 RN: Very good. I think some of us in the philanthropy sector, we are also trying to come together quickly to see how we can create some kind of data analytics, some impact analytics, so that people who are giving forward also feel connected to the results, and I think that’s going to be a very important thing to design in the next few days. A lot of our YouTube viewers are also asking you three questions, and I think BIC is trying to get them put into the bottom of our screen so that I can ask the panelists, some of those as well. We have a good 10 minutes more, so no rush. Even the three of you can look below. There are some questions in Q&A, which are addressed directly to you and you’re welcome to address them. But to come back to you, Anshu, can you give us some… Because you’re always… You’re such a great story teller, can you tell us in these times what you have seen in the last 15, 20 days, and actually even before that, because you were dealing with the other crisis in Delhi that we have quickly forgotten. All previous crises are forgotten and drowned out, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. So give us some sense of how this all social response has been quite heart warming and also from the people who have been so affected, give us some stories to open our minds out in this time.
47:23 AG: So, I think the reality remains that, again, I am going back to the rural India, which is still the largest population and I’m saying that maybe this is also a chance to really correct our priorities because one thing which we’ve been telling again and again, the people that we are ultimately killing the… Instead of killing mosquitoes, we are trying to solve the malaria problem. When we start working a lot in the cities, instead of going to the root of it and solving problem, or if we go to the village. India is not a water starved country. India has it’s own share of water. But then either you have extreme floods or you have drought. Because the agriculture water has never been a priority for so many people.
48:12 AG: And I’m saying that even if you have to solve the problem of education in some part, maybe instead of distributing pencils, and erasers, and coloring the school, you have to go back and work on the water, agriculture water for the village, so that the employment happens and the forced migration does not happen. In the last many, many years of our work and many other institutions who are working, they all have seen that what kind of distress is there, because there are missing priorities. It’s absolutely as simple. And that is the reason… If in the last two decades we hear the news that 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide, which is the extreme, extreme step, and which obviously, the data will be just of a few… Few people must have come in that particular data, whether it is 2 lakh or 3 lakh, it’s a sizeable chunk of people. And imagine the kind of families they have left behind now, completely distressed. So there is distress, and it needs from the government, from the sector, from the business, samaaj, bazaar what you say Rohini, are totally, totally different perspective now, and go to the root and solve the problem instead of doing the band-aid solutions here.
49:26 RN: Yeah. Thank you.
49:27 AG: I think this is what we need to aim to now.
49:30 RN: Yeah, I think a lot of people have said how much this crisis allows us to be regenerative. Starting from just ourselves, just being kinder from inside, outside, and then rethinking so many things like the way we consume, the way we do so many things in our lives, and so, it’s a creative opportunity. Thank you, Anshu. A lot of our… There are couple of questions coming in about children. Should we be focusing differently on children and their nutritional needs? Nalini, you want to say anything about that?
50:03 NS: Yeah. So this is the first set of things that we are doing, and now we are doing children care kits. So we really have to look at protein intake for them and also sanitation, sanitary requirement for them. We’ve also started an online storytelling exercise, we have a club, library… Community library. So we have linked all the children on the phone, and we have started talking about what are the issues and we are coming up with a book that tells what is COVID-19 is all about, how they should not fear. So everyday, we have a session on the phone, we are telling them the stories. So it is very important. And also, I saw another question on domestic violence. We have already seen increase in the domestic violence and it is like… It’s well documented that when people in the army or any kind of uniform come back for a long stay at home, we see their domestic violence increasing. It is almost like that. So domestic violence will be a huge thing we have to handle soon.
51:14 RN: And how do we handle… Is there something that anybody… What… Is there anything that can be done? I know it’s a huge complex problem, but is there anything that you can tell our viewers?
51:26 NS: Yes, one is that we can definitely start a helpline, that’s what we were thinking of doing it. Doing safety plans with women. Right now, we can’t say much of what is happening inside the house. How can you avoid certain things, how you keep yourself safe? Those are the kinds of things that definitely we can tell. And I think this family violence is just not husband and wife, it is in-laws and women or men and children and parents. For us, it’s a family violence issue. It’s not just domestic violence between two partners. So, yeah, we need to… I think that’ll be a huge thing Hasiru Dala will start addressing soon.
52:09 RN: Thank you, because it is so difficult when idea of space, your idea of distance, your idea of normal, everything has shifted so suddenly and to find the adequate personal coping mechanisms to do it, to make that shift is not easy for so many people and our prayers go out to those who are suffering even extra more than usual in these times. Kuldeep, there have been a couple of direct questions to you. Did you see some of them? Do you want to pick up one at least?
52:46 KD: I think one question was that during these times, it’s difficult to actually physically go out and volunteer. My response to that is that what we are asking these young people to do, every day you talk to three or four people in your community who are underserved, then you’re actually building a good base and you can start supporting. And it is… You don’t have to meet them physically, but you’re still understanding what is happening. That is I think the one question which was addressed to me and that’s how I would approach but like you said Rohini, like this is a marathon. How can we be prepared, right? Once this goes off, how can we support them? Not in the short term by just donating money but in the longer term by being a part of their journey. And I see that as a more valuable investment to make than just give money.
53:36 RN: Right. Again, people are asking about direct cash transfers and how government is working. Is government helping all of the civil society organizations? Anshu, do you want to answer that? Is government being supportive right now of civil society organizations?
53:58 AG: I think now they are. They are at least. Many of us have received the letters from them that way. But I think they need to be much, much more supportive. And the local government also reach out to the… Lot of local governments reach out to the civil society sector now, proactively because many of these civil society leaders and the institutions have much, much larger, deeper field experience and dealing with the community experience in comparison to many of the officers and other leaders. I mean I’m being very upfront on this. Because this is the time when it’s not about government, civil society, business, this and that. As I always say that doing good is a collective responsibility. This is a much bigger opportunity and the need and to be honest, if we do not work collectively, we cannot tackle this kind of disaster, not at all. So, I think the government certainly, certainly need to reach out, also make the life easy of the civil society organizations, need to revive the institutions which are killed especially in the village India, because they are the people who are actually to be honest, much more impactful than us. Because they are the last mile delivery people. It needs more support.
55:14 RN: Yeah. Actually, sorry, just I’ll make a point and give it back to Nalini. Viewers, maybe we should understand that over the last few years, there has been a very serious downsizing of civil society organizations. There are many reasons for it. I don’t want to go into it right now, but that’s not good because in times of crises like this, sarkar and its last outputs are still not close enough to the citizen. Bazaar cannot reach absolutely the last mile, what we call the “first mile”. Because it can’t go that far. Who can go that far, is civil society organizations because they are rooted in their communities, they’re rooted in their context. So I think for all of us who live so far away from the sites of acute distress, this is a good time to remember how important civil society organizations are to the whole country’s future and it’s nation… And all nation and people building activities. Sorry for that small lecture. Nalini, over to you.
56:15 NS: Now Karnataka government has reached out. And today we had with the Chief secretary, we had a webinar to see how they can help. Where are the places we’ve really been having problem? But the thing that really government can do is start PDS system. It is just crop and there is no dal, there is no protein. They have to do. If a small organization like Hasiru Dala was able to reach within five days 3500 people, the government can do it. So, they have to look at food security issue at a very, very big level and we’re all there to support, and we can work with each other.
56:57 RN: Any thoughts?
57:00 AG: I think this is the best time to start sharing than just questioning, questioning, questioning.
57:05 RN: Okay.
57:06 AG: Let’s have trust on each other much more and start working together, because there is no other way to come out of it.
57:12 NS: Yeah.
57:13 RN: Okay, make the journey from the head to the heart. We are all in this together and we close on that lovely note by saying thank you to BIC. Thank you to all those who participated and thank you to all our panelists. This is just the beginning. We are going to do a lot more programming. Please stay with us and stay safe.