What can one phone do?

by Ravi Kanneganti (translated by Shruti)

Despite being moved by the terrible condition of thousands of underprivileged people due to Corona Lockdown, a lot of us were feeling helpless that we were unable to do more due to all the restrictions, making it impossible to step out of homes. Not being able to travel more than a few kilometers despite having police permission, was only adding to the feeling of helplessness.  Given all the constraints, there was a necessity to find a way of helping while staying at home. So a few NGOs, social service organisations and volunteers after a lot of brainstorming, came up with the idea of a helpline and a phone number (9985833725) was announced.   An end to end process of taking calls and providing help evolved.

Around 10 volunteers work around the clock from morning 8 AM to night 11 PM in different shifts (making sure the helpline is running during the major part of the day) and take all sorts of calls related to food, ration, access to medical support, harassment from house owners, wanting to go back home etc., and register cases in a centralised database.

Some volunteers gather all the cases received from the helpline and write detailed summaries of all the cases and share them to the whatsapp groups of the respective districts categorising cases based on the priority. These people work in tandem with the helpline volunteers who are taking calls.

However the most important aspect of this helpline is to ensure immediate support reaches the people who are calling the helpline. For this reason, in Telangana district wise (erstwhile districts) whatsapp groups have been set up and some local volunteers, teachers and social workers are a part of these groups. Many volunteers, social workers, reporters, professors, doctors have come forward to support us in this process. Everyone is working from home. When needed they are also coordinating with the government officials/ district administration and reporting cases to them for redressal. They are also making everyone who calls the helpline asking for food or dry ration are supported.

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Another team is working on understanding issues at the state level and representing them to the concerned authorities by writing detailed memorandums and letters for quick action. They are also speaking to the state level authorities.

In a span of 72 hours, the helpline has received around 350 calls from people desperately needing help from various districts of Telangana.

This is a completely different and humbling experience – So many people working together from their homes with the helpline as a central platform. As they say “Where there is a will there’s a way”. All these socially responsible people have made sure to find a way to work and support the underprivileged people in need amidst this huge crisis which is equally stressful to them at a personal level.
All these volunteers don’t harbour any one particular political ideology or leanings. One thing that binds all of them together is the love for people and their innate desire to help. We have people of ages ranging from 18 to 70 who are actively working with this in this cause.

Many well meaning volunteers from around the globe have come forward to contribute funds, do the data analysis of all the calls received and are also speaking to district level officials and coordinating with them in the support activities.

The most enthusiastic members of this team who are driving it by taking key responsible roles are mostly women and transgender people. It is reinforced once again very clearly, why all political parties and social organisations need to have women and transgender people in pivotal decision making roles in their organisations.

Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Makaam, Human Rights Forum, National Alliance for People’s Movements, Caring Citizens Collective, Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika, Palamuru Adhyayana Vedika, Dalit Bahujan Front, Telangana Progressive Teachers Federation, TJAC, Organisations working for Women and Transgenders Rights in Telangana, Chatri are some of the many social organisations which are a part of this initiative.

Many organisations are also working at the ground level by picking up requests from the helpline and delivering the required support at lightning speed to anyone in need.  Going forward, I envision this helpline will be an excellent platform to address all the important issues plaguing our society, in a collective manner.

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