Students United in the Fight Against Hunger
Pankesh Raj Kushwaha stayed home for a week immediately after he returned to Rajbiraj due to the prohibitory order. He laid down but couldn’t fall asleep. Fear and pain didn’t let him sleep. His heart throbbed anxiously. The reality beyond lockdown bothered his soul. Students like him who were usually busy with school, campus, various exercises, and sports were also compelled to stay indoors due to the prohibitory order. However, Pankesh was bothered by the news and updates of social sites and networks. He said, “We were home, safe and sound. We had sufficient to survive with but I could not hold myself in peace. My heart ached when I saw the situation of people suffering outside.’’
After the community was infected, prohibitory order was implemented in Saptari District on May 8. With the extension of the prohibitory order, employment of daily-waged labourers was snatched. They were out of work. They lost their sustenance. The daily-waged workers struggled to meet the ends. The governmental agencies were dedicated to controlling the pandemic. Front-liners risked their lives while providing services to the general public. Yet due to lack of ambulance, oxygen, ICU, ventilator and other health equipment and infrastructure and lack of manpower, people were not able to get treatment easily. In the first wave of the COVID-19, the government of all three levels was ahead in distributing relief materials but this time they did not pay attention to it.
In such a dreadful situation, Kushwaha discussed the impact of the prohibitory order with his friend Amar Yadav, who was the president while working together at the Child Club. Kushwaha said that a meeting was held between the friends of the Child Club through a virtual medium. They wanted to help the needy but it was not possible for the two to do it on their own. More than 75 young social workers between the ages of 19 and 23 in Saptari are now involved in the ‘Youth for Help’ campaign, for those in need. They saved their pocket money and got help from young entrepreneurs and traders to feed the hungry.
During the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, they are supporting the underprivileged by collecting food under the slogan ‘Youth for Needed People’. ‘Although we had decided to help the daily-based labours, jobless, needy, disable and orphans but we were confused about how to begin’, said Yadav-‘ It wasn’t possible for us to help everyone on our own so we used social media to ask people to help us if they were willing to.’ Even if the donors come forward, the faces and identities of the needy are kept secret. They think highlighting them is a mockery of poverty. Kushwaha said that they stay away from those who come for political agenda and unnecessary propaganda in the name of social work.
“We heard and learned that we should help each other while getting trained in the Child Club,” says Bishwendra Paswan of Surunga Municipality.-“Now we are trying to implement what we have learned in the training.”
They have formed a team of 6/6 people including coordinators in 12 out of 18 local levels of Saptari. In Rajbiraj, Kanchanroop, Surunga, Dakneshwari, Saptakoshi, Shambhunath, Khadak, and Hanumannagar Kankalini municipalities and in Chhinnamasta, Mahadeva, Tilathi Koiladi, and Agnisayir Krishnasavaran Rural Municipalities, the team selects the neediest families and collects one month’s food supplies. Shrawan Paswan of Khadak Municipality said that they reach their households to fetch food after collecting the supplies. Appreciating the social work, some generous individuals and organizations have started providing financial assistance as well, sai Mahesh Sah of Rajbiraj.
All these 75 individuals are students. Ramjyoti Chaudhary and Sarita Sardar of Kanchanrup say that they should always be ready to stand at the forefront in times of chaos. Earlier, they had worked in the field of child marriage and child labour. They were involved in the rescue of children and protecting child rights, said Basanta Mishra, chief of Kanchanrup Municipality. They spend a lot of time searching for the neediest families and return secretly after helping. Roshan Sah of Rajbiraj said that he was pleased when some neighbors found out about his contribution and thanked him for helping the family of the needy.
All the students involved have the same saying – ‘We can see people dying of disease. We don’t even want to hear that they died of starvation. Rajbiraj’s Namrata Pariyar said that she was fulfilling her responsibility towards the state. They believe that the youth should always support us in times of calamity in the country.
- Manohar Kumar Pokharel/Saptari
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