Chennai’s Angels
By Sanjay Pinto

When there is no G.O, there is an NGO! There are activists. And there are activists. And there is The Bhoomika Trust. In any crisis or natural disaster or calamity, when governments are stretched and resources scarce, Bhoomika surfaces.
Formed after the Bhuj earthquake in 2001, this Trust has been in the forefront of relief and rehabilitation. Be it the tsunami or cyclones or floods or the present corona pandemic, this professionally run outfit rises to the emergency.
(L-R: Aruna Subramaniam – Managing Trustee, Bhoomika, Jayendra Panchapakesan – Founder Trustee, Bhoomika and Rinku Mecheri – Trustee, Bhoomika)
The faces behind the scenes reflect credibility, integrity and expertise. The Founder Trustee Jayendra Panchapakesan, Managing Trustee Aruna Subramaniam and Trustee Rinku Mecheri, all come from distinguished corporate backgrounds.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, Bhoomika took to the social media and commenced operations, war room style. Substantial research goes into the pressing needs in every situation.

A Helpline for Senior Citizens was formed in Chennai; as well as one to source and supply medicines in neighbouring Tiruvallur district.

In a little over three weeks, dry ration distribution for two weeks to close to thirty thousand migrant guests and daily wage earners has been undertaken in Chennai and Tiruvallur, with supplies for another sixteen thousand in the pipeline. Meals for twenty one thousand people have been cooked out of rations provided to the government. That is still less than half way to their goal.

The focus has also been on supplying protective gear to hospitals. About five thousand personal protection wear, fifteen thousand N95 masks, twenty thousand visors and five thousand sanitization kits have been rustled up.

The template attention has usually been on two verticals – Disaster Relief and  Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation.

Not to forget Education through creating better infrastructure in Govt schools, repairing and rebuilding them and even supporting school fees. Post the Chennai deluge of 2015, Bhoomika built over a hundred new homes for displaced folks.

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‘Rebuilding lives and livelihoods’ has been the mantra.

“These are mere numbers”, declares Aruna Subramaniam, the Managing Trustee.

“They don’t tell you the story of the young Bihari or the one from Jharkand who call us on our helpline asking to be sent home somehow. Behind these numbers is the story of the daily wage earner who is embarrassed to take what you give, who is worried about the future of his family. The farm labourers from Andhra who cross borders in the hope of an income living in thatched huts, wanting so desperately to go back home, and yet they have to survive.
We hope we have done all of this with the dignity they deserve. It was really not their call to stop working for a living.”
Team Bhoomika realises the sheer enormity of the task ahead. “All of us will have to do this in the days to come as jobs become scarce, as industries struggle to pay, as daily wage earners struggle to feed their families. It is the responsibility of not just the Government, it is the society too that will need to open its eyes wider and adopt struggling families. For the whole to survive, every unit has to survive too” reads one of Aruna’s profound facebook posts.
The gratitude that flows from the beneficiaries keeps the volunteers going. “They thank in Hindi, they thank in Bengali and in Telugu. They call, send audio messages, open the kit and send pictures of the content. Our entire volunteering  team feels this new emotion, feels elated that they were part of this process chain.”
Behind every facebook update, lies back breaking work. “Procurement in huge quantities, creating multiple packing and storage godowns, the process of packing specified quantities, validating requests by multi-lingual teams, creating delivery teams , routing optimally, it has been an industrial operation literally.”
The back office team has “innovated processes while they juggle their day time jobs” and the front ending team have shown “exemplary courage and passion in stepping out into the field reaching the ration kits to the needy.”
Over close to two decades, Bhoomika has emerged as the proverbial bridge over troubled waters.
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(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)


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