IIT Madras student group distributes ration to over 2000 people from marginalised sections

IIT Madras student group distributes ration to over 2000 people from marginalised sections

A small group of IIT Madras students have managed to supply one month’s supply of rations to over 2000 people from marginalised sections and workers from the unorganised sector over the last two weeks. The group covers more than 30 households every single day and distributes food materials as well as medicines.

Chinta Bar, an independent student body recognised by IIT Madras was set up in 2014. The group organises discussions, lectures and seminars to discuss social and economic issues, they also organise protests on student-related issues, represent the student community and negotiate with the administration. But that’s not all, when the 2015 December floods hit Chennai the students were out there doing relief work. So now when they saw migrant workers and members of the marginalised sections in distress, they knew they had to get down to work again.

Azhar Moideen, a member of Chinta Bar, and a Masters student at IIT Madras, says that when the lockdown was announced, there was no question of whether or not they have to reach out to the people. The question was on how the were going to do it, taking logistics into consideration. “We knew that it would be people from the marginalised sections who would be disproportionately affected by this lockdown. But after IIT shut down, most students went home. So only a few of us were left, so we got together. First we had to get permission from the Chennai Corporation and then figure out how we would be sourcing, travelling and distributing the food,” Azhar said.

Azhar and his team were already helping some organisations in making sanitiser and reusable masks. Then the team decided to do something to support migrant workers who were going hungry because of the lockdown. First, they needed to raise funds, “A majority of our funds came from our friends, family, IIT faculty, students and alumni,” Azhar said. Initially the team worked with the NGO Born2Win by distributing supplies to transgenders. When they decided to reach out to others they had some trouble getting all the supplies at one place, “Eventually we found a retail store that sold us all the supplies and we bought the medicines separately and then distributed. We distribute to at least 28 households everyday. Ration is for about four adults per house,” she said.

The only issue Azhar faces is that only he has a pass, so sometimes if he needs help, they have some trouble. “But mostly we’re fine,” he says. 

From his experience while distributing supplies, Azhar says he has learnt a lot about the conditions that people are living in and feels the government should do more to tend to the needs of people. “Not all migrant workers feel comfortable reaching out for help, partly because they live in fear. Many buildings have been left half done and the owners are barely giving the labourers any money to sustain. And there are so many large settlements where the people cannot afford social distancing not because they don’t want to but simply because they don’t have any space,” he explained. 

“At one settlement in Perumbakkam, we were able to feed 20 families but 7600 families live there. There’s only one Amma Canteen and one medical centre. And we had to supply sanitisers to the medical centre. So the family should do more to reach out to these families,” he added. 

While he is travelling all over, we ask Azhar if their families worry about their safety,” We maintain all precautions, masks, gloves and we don’t directly come in contact with anyone. But my parents are used to me so they worry a lot but they’re okay. But some other students don’t tell their families,” he laughs.