Many of the families of the children who Prerana works with, earn their wages on a daily basis. With the lockdown in place for several six weeks, many of them have no source of income. Hence, the team has been working to connect the families to organizations that can provide assistance to them.
The team has also restricted its on-going field interventions as a precautionary measure and moved to conduct telephonic follow-ups with the children and their families. As part of the follow-up calls, a social worker contacted the family of Ashmita (name changed) a minor victim of commercial sexual exploitation who lives in a remote village in Malda district of West Bengal. The family consists of Ashmita’s two younger siblings, her mother, and an ailing grandmother. The victims’ mother is the only earning member of the family who works as a laborer at a construction site. Through the call, it was known that after the lockdown, the family’s only source of income stopped. Thus, the mother was forced to sell their goats and the grandmother’s gold nose ring to arrange for money to purchase groceries and medications for the grandmother. Upon acquiring this information, the social worker informed the mother that the social worker would try to identify and link them up with an organization that could provide some kind of assistance to the family. The social worker had hardly completed her statement when the mother stated “Kisi Sanstha se madat dilwake kya ho jayega didi? Jaise hi ration ayega, bade log aur Pradhan wagairah apna ghar pehle bharenge. Hume kuch nahi milne wala” (What would happen by linking us to an organization for assistance? As soon as the relief material arrives, the village heads and influential people would fill their coffers first. Nothing would reach us). Taken aback by the statement all that the social worker could do was to assure her that things would be fine and they would try to provide as much assistance as possible. The family was linked to a Mumbai based organization that was ready to provide direct monetary assistance to them. Upon receiving this information, the mother broke down and shared that she would now be able to feed her family.
It was distressing to know that even in times of crisis, and uncertainty, people in power are still depriving people of essential services. It also raises questions on the extent of the reach of the relief material. Even in terms of receiving relief, do the vulnerable still have to survive on the leftovers of the privileged? While these questions remain difficult to answer, this case helped to reflect on the efficacy of the relief being provided.