Where India’s government has failed in the pandemic, its people have stepped in – By Bharati Ramachandran

The highways connecting India’s overcrowded cities to the villages had not seen anything like it since the time of partition 73 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of workers were on the move, walking back to their villages with their possessions bundled on their heads. The lockdown was announced without a clear plan for the consequences and Indian civil society stepped in immediately.

With 92 partner NGOs, Goonj started work in 18 states. By 20 April, field teams had delivered rations to 17,700 families, and 16,600kg of rice, flour, lentils, potatoes and oil and 77,800 ready-to-eat meals to community kitchens. They had also produced 42,800 face masks and 24,900 sanitary pads. Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram-Ekta Parishad is doing the same in 39 districts across 10 states.… Thousands of workers and volunteers are feeding migrant labourers and maintaining community kitchens, as well as distributing masks and soap and protective equipment for frontline health workers.

NGOs have been demonised, especially those working on human rights issues. Their bank accounts have been frozen, their staff have been harassed, and their intent has been questioned. Now, as the state grapples with a response to Covid-19, the government think-tank NITI Aayog has requested that more than 92,000 NGOs help the government fight the pandemic.… The sooner this government starts to see civil society as allies in fair and foul weather, the better

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