Published: 14th April 2020
From awareness in tribal languages to virtual reading clubs, this group of TISS students is helping the marginalised survive the lockdown
Eklavya has also launched an initiative called Let's Help Maharashtra to help daily wage labourers with food and basic needs. The project design has been adopted by groups across the country
Like many other groups, Eklavya, a group of TISS students and alumni from Maharashtra has come together to help out. But providing rations for basic sustenance is not the only thing they are doing — they have a helpline for those who are dealing with mental health issues amid the lockdown, they are spreading awareness in tribal areas, promoting reading habits and also helping daily wage labourers stuck in different parts of the country. The group is working across Maharashtra, Chattishgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha at this point.
Founded by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur alumnus Raju Kendre, Eklavya has been working for youth development — from distributing books to conducting mentorship programmes in villages across Maharashtra. When the Coronavirus pandemic struck India, they stepped up. "We are running a helpline to provide a platform for people to talk about queries related to COVID-19 and any mental health issues they are facing amid the lockdown. Our team of doctors and specialists has provided psychological support to more than 200 people till date — we have had everyone from students to media personnel call in. We are also organising live sessions on Facebook to reach a large population in need of advice and psychological support," said Raju.
In order to promote reading habits among individuals to make optimum utilisation of idle hours at home amid lockdown, Raju and his team have started a virtual book club. "There are more than 1000 readers engaged with the book club. We provide them with soft copies collected from open-source with a wide range of 1000 books that we have," he added.
Eklavya has also launched an initiative called Let's Help Maharashtra to help daily wage labourers with food and basic needs. "We are using the helpline to reach out to the affected population and helping them in coordination with NGO’s and the group of volunteers working on the ground," said Raju. "We are working in sync with the local administration. This way the relief reaches the people without any hindrance. We do not want to run a parallel campaign at a place where there is a campaign running already or the government is helping. We would rather help them raise more donations and distribute it," he added. The project design of Let's Help Maharashtra has been adopted by groups working in Gujarat, Assam and UP and was appreciated by the Chhattisgarh Government as well.
People in the villages are hardly able to access proper information about safety and preventive measures which is crucial to contain the pandemic. "To address this problem, we started translation and dissemination of information in vernacular languages including tribal dialects like Gondi, Korku, Kolami, and Banjari. For this initiative, we are working in collaboration with Savitri Jotirao Samaajkarya Mahavidyalaya (a social work college) in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra," added the graduate in World Development from TISS.