Tiding Over an Immediate Food Crisis
Sajna Bai from Bhikupura village is a member of the Salkan Mata Pragati Samuh for the past five years. Both she and her husband Nanuram have polio and are physically challenged. They have a one-year-old child.
Nanuram used to work at a poultry farm in Bhikupura until he lost his job due to the countrywide lockdown after the Covid outbreak. In remote tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh, several rumours were associated with Covid-19, that it can spread through poultry rapidly. The stories of the origin of Covid from “wet markets” in China was cited as proof for such baseless rumours. As a result, thousands of poultry farmers had to throw away their stocks of birds or sell them at very low prices, thereby incurring immense losses. In fact, the poultry sector of the entire region was affected by such rumours and was forced to shut down. Sajna Bai used to work as agricultural labourer in the nearby farms. She also suffered a temporary job loss after the first lockdown was announced.
Many people here mainly rely on weekly haats (market) to buy their daily essentials for home. Adhering to the guidelines of physical distancing, these weekly markets also faced closures, leading to hardships in sourcing necessary items for daily use. Most of these villages have PDS shops. However, due to the lockdown, they were inadequately stocked owing to the disruption in supply. The available products were also poor in quality and there was a surge in their prices. Due to the sudden halt in economic activities, people did not have enough cash in hand to make transactions to access the day-to-day provisions. In view of this crisis, SPS provided assistance worth around Rs. 1000 to 13,044 carefully identified most vulnerable families in its area of operation (Dewas and Khargone districts, MP) to help the families meet their basic needs and maintain personal hygiene. Each one of these families is very well known to us and each of them has bank accounts. Community institutions (SHGs and SHG Federations of women) facilitated by SPS in the area played a central role in the preparation of the list of most vulnerable families and in the delivery of the kit of essentials.
Sajna Bai and Nanuram do not have ration cards in their names. Nanuram has three brothers who live with their mother in a separate house. His mother provides him with 10 kg of wheat every month from her PDS supplies, which is not sufficient to feed the family of three even for a month. They buy the rest of their provisions from local stores. However, this time, Nanuram could not get the wheat from his mother because the PDS shop had delayed in distributing the ration after the lockdown was announced. The couple received the SPS relief package which was sufficient to meet the needs of their household for one month. They reported that they had food supplies sufficient for only a couple of days when this relief package reached them. Without this relief, Sajna Bai and her family would have gone into hunger for several days. Limited physical mobility had made it even more difficult for them to source essential items for home. This intervention by SPS helped them tide over the immediate crisis of food.
Soon after the first lockdown, agricultural operations were permitted by the government and farms started employing labour once again. Sajna Bai was able to go back to work and start earning her daily income. Nanuram has also started working as an agricultural labourer. This labouring family is trying to get a ration card in their name and is still struggling hard to stay out of hunger in these difficult times.