Hello, friend of Ekta,
We hope you and your loved ones are doing well!
Welcome to the fifth issue of Voice of Ekta, a newsletter 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 will explore the philosophy and guiding principles behind Ekta Parishad's relief operations, get an overview of how relief operations work and hear from activists across the country about their relief work.
Foreword by Ramesh Sharma, General Secretary of Ekta Parishad
The pandemic has brought the predicament of migrant workers in India to the centre-stage of discussions and decisions. The variegated experience of an economic slowdown across people and places, coupled with the inadequacy of social protection policies for the most vulnerable populations has revealed and enhanced existing inequalities in society.
Being a Gandhian organisation, Ekta Parishad envisages the broad spectrum of relief operations full of compassion and commitment, where our collective efforts address not just the immediate crisis of food & medicine but also focus on self-reliance.
Self-reliance is also a central focus, with long term interventions planned. We hope the short-term responses will lead towards a long term reality for rebuilding rural India in a future free from hunger, inequality and injustice.
How Ekta Parishad Works: Relief Operations
The Philosophy Behind Relief- Compassion and Commitment: Rajaji
“Relief will be essential even in the most advanced societies but the attitude shouldn’t be of pity, but of empathy. We have to ask ourselves, “How would I like to be treated if I am suffering?”
There should be an inbuilt idea of revolution in relief. Relief has become essential due to various policy failures and we want to correct it. Relief should lead to greater empowerment of individuals and communities, rather than disempowering them.
The system is moving into permanent relief mode, which leads people to think they can exploit all resources and keep people happy by giving them something. This behaviour needs to end. This is where Gandhi’s idea of Swaraj comes in.
As long as every individual and community is in control of their own destiny, the dream of Swaraj can become reality. As long as the control is in the hands of the givers from the top, Swaraj remains a dream unfulfilled."
Reasoning and Rationale Behind Relief: Jill Carr-Harris
“People in India have struggled to respond to the one of the world’s largest COVID-19 surges. Public health experts in India are warning that the third wave is imminent while the impact of the second wave continues to be felt deeply in rural areas.
There has been a widespread food and livelihood crisis among millions of daily wage earners. Many people including farmworkers, fisherfolk, artisans have exhausted their life’s savings, and are selling off meagre assets in the struggle for survival.
Fortunately, the frontline women (and male) workers in Ekta Parishad have done a heroic job in getting needed medicine and food supplies to those families most affected. This came at a critical time, supporting 100,000 families to recover.
Ekta Parishad's frontline women workers would not have been able to make these efforts without the generous support provided by so many friends and contributors in Europe and Canada. We take this opportunity to thank you for your solidarity support.”
Decision Making and Delivery of Relief: Aneesh Kumar
"The National Core Group of Ekta Parishad and a dedicated team of coordinators, field activists and volunteers are together operating on a demand-supply relief chain for the last few months. Our field assessment is based on specific reporting from volunteers, community leaders and grassroots activists.
In the next step, a team of coordinators called the State Relief Committee reviews the data and specific demand and shares the necessary details with the Relief Secretariat, which is constituted for the purpose of delivering the necessary support. We take precautions to protect frontline workers who are serving communities tirelessly."
Taking a People-first Approach: Saroj Singh, An Activist From Madhya Pradesh
“Being a grassroots activist in Ekta Parishad, my focus has always been to reach the most marginalised people in villages. My learning and understanding allows me to build a meaningful connection with people, and especially elders in families.
Villagers also perceive me as a member of their family and it helps me find a lot of helping hands in the village. I have been successful in motivating people to take health security measures and the vaccination to protect themselves, their families as well as their community. Local officials appreciate my work and also help us support people through various State schemes meant for marginalised communities.”
On Preparedness: Chunnulal Soren, State Coordination Team, Jharkhand
“The experience of being in a pandemic for the last one year has taught us about being prepared for an urgent response to disasters. In April, soon after the second wave hit, we started calling people we supported last year during the first wave.
We learned that most of them needed urgent support for ration and preventive medicine, which we successfully ensured to them through our relief operations.
Our work over the last one year (and previous years) has helped us create systems, anticipate future requirements and stay prepared to start relief operations at a much faster pace and reach as many people as possible.
Being a State Coordination Team member in Jharkhand, I have ensured that our whole team is always prepared to jump into action when required.”
Synergies with the State: Nayantara, Member of State Coordination Committee, Assam
“I work in the flood plains of the Dhemaji district of Assam, which are known for perennial floods & erosion. In this tough terrain, people are deprived of many benefits of State schemes meant for them.
When I started talking to the people about vaccination, they were not only afraid but also reluctant to go to vaccination camps. Our team had a meeting with the District officials and Health department, and we were offered to organise Vaccination camps in the remote villages.
We are proud of having mobilized and motivated nearly 1000 people to take the vaccination and inspire other people to do so, too. Now, we are also helping local officials by informing people about other benefits the State is offering to them.”
Reaching Tribal Communities: Shikari Baiga, An Activist from Chhattisgarh
“The Bodla block of Kabeerdham district in Chhattisgarh is the native land of the Baiga tribal community. My father was the first generation leader of Ekta Parishad. For decades, the Baiga community has been facing the crisis of land and livelihood.
The pandemic makes my community more vulnerable simply because of the absence of Government services and supplies. Being a District Coordinator of Ekta Parishad, I have been working with my team of volunteers round the clock over the last few months and we are proud of having supported more than 800 Baiga families by proving nutritional supplements to the children & women, food packs to elderly and people with disabilities and preventive medicine to a large number of people.
Now, I am helping the community by taking the vaccination myself and protecting my family and neighbours. Soon after the pandemic is over, we need to organise ourselves for the long fight for our own land and forest.”
From Ramesh Sharma, General Secretary of Ekta Parishad