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Covid-19: Help him help these helpless migrants

By PRASANNA D ZORE
March 26, 2020 09:25 IST
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Pappu Qureshi, a good samaritan in Mumbai, helps feed more than 15 migrant families, mostly daily wagers and their children, since Mumbai went into a lockdown, but with the 21-day national lockdown looming large, time is running out.
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IMAGE: Some of the daily wagers from Uttarakhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh huddle together inside the home of one of the immigrants as an uncertain future lies ahead. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pappu Qureshi
 

A good samaritan, who was actively involved in helping the Mumbai riot victims of 1992-1993, the flood-affected people of the 2005 Mumbai deluge, and more recently helping those whose homes and livelihoods were washed away by a tsunami-like wave when a huge wall gave way because of the heavy downpour in July 2019 in north Mumbai, Musa 'Pappu' Qureshi has once again emerged as the epicentre of all the efforts that are underway to help feed and look after scores of migrant families ever since Mumbai began witnessing a partial lockdown last week.

With Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi announcing a complete national lockdown from March 25 for the next 21 days, these 15 families comprising 46 people, and 200 more who have been shifted to different locations in Malad East's Pathanwadi, north west Mumbai, neighbourhood by various non-profit organisations, Qureshi is pleading for any help, from any quarter to help feed them "till India wins this war over the Covid-19 pandemic."

"I don't think this lockdown will end after 21 days. Even if it does it will take months more for people to get back to their normal, earning lives," Qureshi tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com over the telephone, a few hours after he had helped feed these families their lunch, brought by people from nearby residential buildings, on the first day of the national lockdown.

SEE: The helpless labourers describe their condition. Video: Kind courtesy Pappu Qureshi

 

"They are my tenants. I have told them I will not be charging them any rent for the next two-three months. Most of them are from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh," he says about these families emphasising the melting pot, which the city has become, and which manifests itself mainly after either tragedies or pandemics like this one.

But while the rent part has been taken care of, even for a month or two, Qureshi and many like him are looking out for helping hands who could help these non-profits and individuals take care of food necessities of 300-odd people.

"Jamaat-e-Ilsami and other local NGOs have taken as many as 200 people from my place to another location in Pathanwadi so that people can follow some semblance of social distancing," Qureshi says, explaining the need for people to stay away from each other lest they get infected by coronavirus in these scary times.

"We are looking for people who can provide us with food items, cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, whatever for the next month or so for these many people," he says when asked about his biggest challenge.

"People donating money will not help as much as those providing food items in our case," he adds.

"While groceries remain open and vegetable vendors sell their wares every morning, most of these places are so crowded that venturing out in crowds come with coronavirus risks," Qureshi explains. "While donations are also welcome, now you get why money won't help much."

"Money can be distributed among these people, and will be needed, once this pandemic gets over so that these daily wagers can sustain for some time till they get back their livelihoods and earning capacity" he says.

SEE: Nazeer and his wife speak about their situation. Video: Kind courtesy Pappu Qureshi

 

"Most of these people are autorickshaw drivers, coconut sellers, construction workers and odd-jobbers who moved here in search of livelihoods," says Qureshi. "While most of these people had sources of income their employers say they can't help them with cash because banks too are closed."

"Then there are some widows, families with small children, some old folks who have nowhere to go and no one to take care of them in these trying circumstances," Qureshi says.

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IMAGE: If You want to help the immigrants with food items or donations, please contact Pappu Qureshi at 9821207864. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pappu Qureshi

Qureshi fears that as the lockdown goes on, more daily wagers, leading hand-to-mouth existence, from neighbouring slums will appear at his doorstep hoping he would help them.

Towards that end, Qureshi has also written to a dozen of IAS officers -- requesting arrangement of food items for about 300 people for the next month at least -- bureaucrats he happens to know because of his past interactions with them as a social worker.

"Let's hope something positive works out."

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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