The years 2020 and 2021 have left horrific imprints on our collective imagination. Visuals of COVID patients gasping for breath, people dying in want of hospital beds and medicines are still afresh and vivid in our memoires. This pandemic brought the life of millions of people in our country to a standstill and hundreds of thousands of people lost their loved ones. The images of migrant workers walking thousands of kilometers to their homes on foot or bicycles shook the entire nation.
Now, the second wave has passed and we are moving towards normalcy with apprehension of an imminent third wave. However, the second wave has left deep scars and financial challenges for marginalized and low-income groups. Complete shutdown of many small-scale businesses and job cuts across industries have jolted the lower middle-class population. Local restrictions have hampered livelihood activities of the informal sector, domestic, and micro scale enterprises.
The scale of the tragedy is so large that no government can alone handle the devastation caused. Hence, it is the responsibility of the civil society to play a vital role in overcoming this situation.
Numerous individuals and organizations have done their bit to minimize the suffering and pain, but there is still much left to be done. It is being extensively reported that poverty in India has
increased due to COVID-19 and a recent study by Azim Premji University titled “State of Working India 2021 – One Year of Covid-19” estimates that an additional 23 crore people have been pushed into poverty due to the pandemic.
It is time that as a nation we focus on the rehabilitation of the people and families who are economically devastated in the aftermath of COVID-19. In this light, JIH inspired NGOs have come up with a great initiative to ensure financial access for the economically distressed sections of society without any discrimination of caste, creed, gender and religion, and helping them to rebuild their livelihood.
The initiative has been named as “COVID-19 Handholding Project”, which will not only provide financial access to the distressed families but also ensure support through counselling and facilitation of business operations to make their businesses successful.
Following organizations have joined hands to successfully organize this ambitious project: Sahulat Microfinance Society, VISION 2026, Human Welfare Foundation (HWF), Human Welfare Trust (HWT), The Women Education and Empowerment Trust (TWEET), Society for Bright Future (SBF) and Model Village Trust. The first stage of the project is focused on mobilizing funds available for livelihood development and economic empowerment. This fund will be provided to the intended beneficiaries as livelihood loan or livelihood grant based on the assessment of distress. This project will be formally launched on 30th July 2021.
The misery and sufferings faced by the economically vulnerable sections of our society is not a hidden secret. It is incumbent on the fortunate lot of the society who have enough means to survive this difficult time to come forward and share some of their resources with the economically distressed sections of society so that the challenge our nation faces is fought and overcome. No nation in the world has overcome difficult situations only due to government action, but with the assistance of its civil society, which takes part in nation building selflessly and silently. Let us come forward, join hands and take part in this nation building exercise and come out of this crisis unitedly.