NEW DELHI: When Madhavi Juneja reached a gated society in Noida to deliver essentials to a family on Saturday, the colony had already been locked down due to a suspected coronavirus positive patient. Police personnel had surrounded the perimeter, and all the shops in the area were shuttered.
“There were a dozen men in orange and black suits, probably from the disaster management team, stationed outside the society. There was also a vehicle meant to transport the suspected patient to the hospital,” the 37-year-old psychotherapist told TOI on Sunday.
Juneja is a part of a collective called “caremongers”, who have banded together to “assist” vulnerable people in times of lockdown due to Covid-19. Apart from Noida, they have reached out to people in Jaipur, Gurgaon, Delhi and Bangalore. The group was founded on by 38-year-old Mahita Nagaraj, a digital marketer based in Bengaluru, barely a week ago.
“The idea came up because a friend of mine from the UK called me recently to check in on her parents. Hours after I did that, another friend from the US called me with a similar request, which made me realise that there must be hundreds of people in need of assistance,” Nagaraj said.
So, she wrote a Facebook post, asking people to get in touch if they needed assistance, and the response was overwhelming. It was then that she decided to start a “helpline”. She made a poster with the message, “Let’s move from scare mongering to care mongering,” and made it public, along with helpline. On the first day, she got over 350 calls. T
hereafter, Nagaraj started a Facebook group calling for volunteers and in just two days, 2,000 people had signed up from across India. Juneja was one of them. The group provides assistance to people in four categories: elderly, parents with infants aged below one, people with pre-existing medical conditions and physically challenged individuals. Juneja delivered groceries to a family which was out of milk for their infant. “It took me over two hours to purchase milk and other essentials and to deliver to the destination,” said Juneja. She wasn’t allowed inside the society, but she left the items with the security personnel and the family collected it from there. “When Ispoke to the family, they kept thanking me. But for me, the idea is to be there for each other. As a mother of two, I understand it can be very difficult to live in a lockdown, especially with an infant,” she said.
Another volunteer, Aishwarya Subramanian, offered to drop off food items on her bicycle to the “elderly” in Bengaluru on March 20. Her post received over 5,000 tweets and over 20,000 likes. Aishwarya has since joined the caremongers Facebook group.
In Punjab, Mohit, a young professional circulated a similar message on his social media handles. “Hello folks, if your elderly parent or relatives live in Chandigarh/Mohali/ Panchkula and need help with groceries, medicine or any other supplies, please feel free to call me. I’ll purchase them and drop them at their home,” he wrote in a message, along with his phone number. The post went viral on WhatsApp as well as other platforms. “I think caremongering as a concept started in Canada, where a group of people came together to provide essential services. It was also meant to counter scaremongering that had become common during the crisis. I thought it was apt to use it here in the current scenario,” Nagaraj said. As Aishwarya put it, the idea is to “make the world a little less lonely for people right now”.