This group has distributed over 75,000 litres of water across Mumbai since the lockdown
Water – the elixir of life – is often overlooked when it comes to sustaining health, while food is highly prioritised. However, the migration of workers from cities to their hometowns during the first wave of the pandemic left many of them with no food and water.
However, thanks to many NGOs and humanitarians, a bit of this situation was under control due to the many food distribution drives. However, once the Shramik trains were arranged for these workers, it came to light that there wasn’t enough food and water for them.
“I was seeing the plight of thousands of migrants waiting in the sun at various locations in Mumbai in May, to get a seat on the Shramik Special trains in May 2020, and there was some media coverage of them not getting food and water. This prompted me and my relative to go with 800 litres of water on the first day,” Akbar Merchant tells SocialStory.
Distributing water to the migrant workers at LTT
Soon after, Akbar, Assistant Editor with Autocar India, went on to make this a regular feat after onboarding a team of volunteers from the Ismaili Kurla Jamat Khana in Mumbai. They started distributing packaged drinking water, starting from the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus railway station to a huge number of migrants who were leaving the city for their hometowns.
Within its first week, the water distribution initiative had catered to more than 8,000 migrants with one-litre water bottles.
To expand their reach, they also joined hands with like-minded folks from the Sikh community, based in Chembur. This helped them with more manpower and enabled the team to distribute close to 25,000 litres of water to the migrants in the first 18 days of May.
Helping COVID-19 centres
As the migrant crisis started to simmer down, the team shifted focus towards COVID-19 government hospitals in the city which were still being set up and required drinking water for the patients, doctors, and other frontline workers.
By the end of June 2020, the team had distributed close to 30,000 litres of water at five locations in the city. The city's municipal corporation as well as the mayor of Mumbai have recognised their efforts on social media.
By late August 2020, the project hit the 50,000-litre milestone and was catering to as many as nine COVID-19 hospitals. Since then, the initiative has spread its wings further and is now catering to 13 COVID-19 centres. They crossed the 75,000-litre mark as of December 10, 2020.
The team of volunteers
“Having started from the LTT Railway station, we now reach out 14 different places including 13 COVID-19 care centres in the city,” says Akbar.
The team has distributed water in Bandra, Byculla, Dahisar, Worli, Andheri, Vile Parle, Goregaon, and other areas.
When it comes to the funding, Akbar says that initially, the volunteers pitched in from their own pockets, with a lot of community members, friends and well-wishers also contributing to the cause.
While distributing water, they also had to ensure that they maintained social distancing. “We were armed with face shields, gloves, and masks all the time while distributing water at the railway station. Also, visiting a COVID-19 centre is always a risk but we take care and maintain distance,” says Akbar.
Grateful for the undying support
The people who received support expressed their gratitude to the Ismaili community. Some of the hospital deans had very kind things to add about the initiative.
Dr Rajesh Dere, the Dean of the massive 2,000-plus bed Bandra Kurla Complex COVID-19 facility shared, "The volunteers from the Ismaili Kurla Jamat Khana have been supporting us with drinking water and paper cups for more than three months now, and we've already received more than 25,000 litres of water from them so far.”
“The work done by the Ismaili Muslim community during the pandemic by sending drinking water to multiple COVID-19 centers in the City, is most commendable and exemplary,” says Dr Neelam Andrade, Dean - NESCO Jumbo COVID-19 centre, MCGM, Goregaon
The doctors at the Genesis COVID-19 Centre says that they were having delays in procuring clean drinking water for the staff and the patients. However, thanks to these volunteers, they’ve received more than 3,000 litres of clean drinking water for everyone at the facility.
“The volunteers of Ismaili Muslim community are doing a great job by serving COVID-19 patients and frontline workers with clean drinking water at multiple locations in the city,” says Dr Mayura Phulpagar, Dean, Byculla Jumbo COVID-19 Care Centre.
Other plans and activities
The volunteers of Kurla Jamat Khana are part of what is now a wider movement in the Ismaili community called the 'Ismaili Civic', a global programme under which the Shia Imami Ismaili community around the world has united, to serve the wider communities.
“CIVIC is an international endeavour, reflecting the Jamat's ethic of civic engagement and our shared values of service and care, especially for those who are vulnerable,” says Akbar.
“We are planning to continue this one as long as the pandemic is on, and are in talks with other NGOs for support. We are aiming to hit the 100,000-litre mark by March 31, 2020,” he signs off.