Odisha, an state in East Cost of India at the shore of Bay of Bengal is known to encounter with many natural disasters; mainly floods and cyclones. The super cyclone, in 1999, is known to be the most deadly disaster in this coastal state. The post cyclone stories, narrated by the relief workers, are terrifying. In this bloodcurdling situation, a volunteer organization named Utkal Bipanna Sahayta Samiti, abbreviated as UBSS, has made immeasurable contribution in rescue, relief and re-establishment works and came into the notice across the country. By the same token, the UBSS has kept continuing its services to humanity with various activities across the state and is well known for its extraordinary contributions in series of natural disasters like FANI last year. Established in 1982, it is affiliated with the Rashtriya Seva Bharti; a social service wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The Covid-19 pandemic has emerged out as a new and unknown challenge across the world. Everyday changing scenario, to its worst, has shaken the world without the foolproof plan to counter the invisible enemy – novel Corona Virus. The world data of community transmission of this deadly virus was alarming to the unimaginably worst situation in India. In order to save the lives of countrymen from this disaster, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no better option than to make an unprecedented announcement of 21-day complete lockdown across the country and it further extended to next 3 weeks. It was known to the Government that not only it will cripple the economy in future but also it will badly hit the livelihood of poor people who earn their foods and essentials on daily basis.
The government agencies from central and state have started working from their head to toe to combat the outbreak of Covid-19. No one was allowed to step out on the road except essential services like medical, police, sensitization etc. A major requirement of supplying the food and essentials to the poor and needy people has been emerged out. On the contrary, it was difficult for the volunteer organizations like UBSS to extend its helping hands towards the society. It is interesting to know how UBSS has overcome the restrictions to serve the underprivileged and needy people in this unforeseeable situation. This may also be an example for other help groups to work in unpredictable time.
How Utkal Bipanna Sahayata Samiti (UBSS),
a not-to-profit organization in Odisha,
has served the underprivileged during lockdown
The first and foremost step of UBSS was to minutely assess the restrictions of lockdown. Made planning to initiate its services for the needy with strictly following the preventive measures to break the chain of Covid-19 as per the advisory of the governments. Next, UBSS contacted to the various government agencies to get permission for distribution of foods, masks, sanitizers and other essentials items in the nearby slum localities.
For the local government authorities, it was actually difficult to trust and to permit any non-government organization to work independently under pandemic lockdown. UBSS, already known for its selfless and disciplined services in previous natural disasters in Odisha was not required for any kind of introduction to prove its authenticity. The teams of Swayamsevaks trained in various Shakah and Milan were additional advantage for the UBSS to maintain discipline while service. Therefore, office of the State Disaster Management has given a recommendation letter to the UBSS to work during lockdown with the local government agencies. UBSS then reached to Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and received permission to work under the directives of the BMC.
In the mean time, UBSS, without delay, has started distribution of cooked meals in the nearby localities around its head quarter at Mancheswar, Bhubaneswar with the help of local and resident volunteers. Nearly 300 cooked meals have been served daily to the stranded for 12 consecutive days; a total of 3600 meals.
BMC, on March 15th, instructed to arrange Dry Ration Kits for those who are not the Ration Card holders. UBSS then arranged four private vehicles and designated to transport the ration packets by maintaining strict hygiene and social distancing guidelines. Special care has been taken to maintain the social distancing by involving minimum number of volunteers on roster. Two types of ration kits were packed to avoid any sort of waste. In order to serve the items to the specific needs, one was Rice Kit and another one was Chuda Kit . The Rice Kit was containing Rice, Pulse, Potato, Mustered Oil, Sanitizer, Soaps, Biscuits and Masks where as Chuda Kit was containing Chuda (Flattened Rice), Jaggery, Biscuits, Sanitizer and Soap. As on April 22nd, UBSS has distributed 1668 Rice packets and 368 Chuda packets. Nearly 1000 poor families were benefited at Bhubaneswar.
During the ration distribution, UBSS volunteers made very good coordination with BMC. Everyday, a day before the distribution, BMC first identified the slum areas through survey where there was real need of such supply and informed UBSS about the requirement. Number of Ration kits were packed based on the demand. At the time of distribution, ASHA workers first ensured to have arrangement of disciplined gathering of beneficiaries by marking the proper distance of 6 feet or more to stand or sit. The packets were then kept in front of the beneficiaries queued with proper social distancing. It was also ensured that the faces of each and every person must be covered with masks or any sort of cloth. The volunteers of UBSS involved in whole operation were taken all sorts of care by masking the face, regular hand washing using soap,social distancing as recommended by the Government Health authorities.
Similar practices were attempted by the volunteers in other districts of Odisha also. As on April 21st, 15541 Food Packets, 5531 Ration Kits, 22408 Face Masks, and 5324 bottles (100 ml) of sanitizers were distributed. More than 2100 volunteers have participated in different services. Also, the volunteers have donated 52 units of blood on medical demand. There is a saying of Mahatma Gandhi that the greatness of the nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. The same spirit has motivated UBSS to arrange fodder for 5000 cows and cattle. Recently, an organization has offered the donation to UBSS for 5000 food kits which will be further utilized in upcoming distributions.
The UBSS, as always, came forward to serve the society in need. The Covid-19 pandemic imposed so many restrictions but UBSS searched possibly all the opportunities from the disciplined corners to ensure the relief work and assisted the government agencies in combating the Covid-19 outbreak. It was a humble commitment that the pandemic may bring cases of death in our society but UBSS will not allow a single case of starving in its reach.