Anant Ram, a 52-year-old visually impaired man living in New Delhi, had about a week’s worth of supplies when the lockdown was put in place across India to suppress the new coronavirus on March 24.
Any funds Ram had saved from working as a member of a musical band that performs at Hindu celebrations and social gatherings were quickly exhausted and now, two months into the lockdown, he is entirely dependent on the help of others. First, he sought help from the government.
“Government help doesn’t come easily. You have to stay in long queues to get your share from the authorities. I am too weak to do this,” Ram said.
It was with the assistance of few local youths that he could get a food kit from a government agency, but other essential basics — gas, oil and medicines — were hard to come by.
“I cannot roam around the deserted streets to find what I need. You have to be normal for such tasks,” he told LiCAS.news.
Ram is not an alone in battling such an insurmountable predicament. People with disabilities are silent sufferers during the lockdown in the city.
Bhagwan Das, a handicapped person living in Delhi’s south has likewise struggled to get by. Das was a boy when he surfed polio which permanently affected his left leg. Now 43, he earns a livelihood selling books from the roadside. With the lockdown now entering its third month, Das said he hasn’t been able to earn a single penny since the restrictions began. The book dealer who supplies Das with books to sell has lent him some money to help him get by.
“I have no resources to seek help from the government. In these soaring temperatures, I cannot even stand in queue for hours to receive food and water from the government depots,” said Das.
Caritas, the social service arm of Catholic Church Caritas, under its community-based rehabilitation program, has reached out to both Ram and Das and recently provided them with assistance including food kits and medicine.
“I was contacted by the volunteers and they asked me whether apart from food I need anything else. I gave them the list of essentials and they provided it,” Das told LiCAS.news
Ram said he had got to the point of losing hope, he began thinking he wouldn’t survive the pandemic.
“There were fears mounting inside me that I would starve to death and no one will know it. I sometimes wonder ‘what if’ if the Caritas volunteers hadn’t found me,” Ram said.
He told LiCAS.news that he was given a Caritas contact and then things changed for the better.
“It was Caritas; through one of its partner organizations who reached me. I am now being given dry rations and pulses every 15 days,” Ram said.
Other people suffering a disability, told LiCAS.news similar stories.
Caritas has dedicated a special relief program in the Indian capital suited to the needs of differently abled people.
Father Paul Moonjely, executive director of Caritas India, said that the agency and 60 partner organization are reaching out to vulnerable populations using a preferential and inclusive approach.
“They are one of the most vulnerable sections of our society going through these difficult times. We aren’t making them wait in queues,” said Father Paul.
More than 14,000 people have received help through the program so far during the lockdown.
Caritas spokesman Anjan Beg said Caritas India, along with implementing diocesan partner Prachodana Social Service Society, have initiated collaboration with the Delhi government to further meet the needs of the vulnerable population.
As part of efforts, Caritas, through the society, have also initiated a program providing food supplies rations to hostels sheltering visually impaired people during the pandemic lockdown, Beg said.
Caritas India are doing similar in other parts of the country.
There are an estimated 26 million people in India with a disability. According to the 2011 census, 20 percent of people with disabilities in India have movement disabilities, 19 percent have hearing impairments, and 19 percent are visually impaired.