On March 24th, 2020, the Government of India announced a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown hit those with low incomes, dependent on earnings from daily labour hardest. Recognizing this, a group of faculty, staff, students and researchers associated with a UNICEF project at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) formed a team of volunteers to immediately assist those in need.
The team has worked with community based volunteers and organisations to try and bring some relief to those left particularly vulnerable by the lockdown. While doing so, we have also tried to systematically document and share the conditions of these households with reports to generate greater public awareness and mobilize responses from other stakeholders.
The goal has been to reach out to those falling through the cracks of government and other efforts. As of June 3rd 2020, the team has been able to reach out to over 1500 such families providing them ration and a small amount of money for sustenance primarily.
Over the months, the means of intervention have evolved, often informed by surveys and detailed conversations with volunteers. At each stage, we have tried to gather as much information as we could to re-design the efforts and be responsive to changing needs and circumstances.
Timeline of work and collaborators
"Targeting is costly. You try to target, you miss the right people often because they are the poorest of the poor", said Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee.
Community volunteers are mostly residents of the areas we have worked in and they have been helping us in coordinating the efforts on the field. It is by all means the efforts of community volunteers and trust that they have built in their communities over the years that enables us to work. While holding detailed conversations about identification, we have over the process come to primarily rely on them for identifying beneficiaries.
We hope that by creating a network of community volunteers, communities are strengthened and not dependent on external assistance. The immediate provisioning of food and money is essential but hopefully part of a larger process.
The Process: While the process has evolved, some basic elements are depicted above
Our initial efforts were directed towards communities that were those that IIMA had a previous relationship with. This included families of children from low-income households in the neighbourhood of IIMA who attend after school classes as part of student-run initiatives, Prayaas and SMILE. In addition as part of an action research project under the rubric of Right to Education Resource Center (RTERC), students and researchers at IIMA and other local institutions had provided support on the Right to Education to parents with children in government-run Anganwadis living in different parts of the city.
Volunteers from IIMA started reaching out to these parents to identify those in need and assess the kind of assistance that could be provided to them. Households were divided into four categories based on the urgency of need: Red, Orange, Yellow and Green. Based on initial surveys, a projection of demand was made and the costs of providing ration kits to these families were estimated. Simultaneously a request for contributions was sent out to the IIMA community.
While it was decided to supply ration kits to those in need, those needing immediate assistance were requested to visit a grocery shop to buy basic provisions, with payments made directly to the grocer via mobile payment apps. 310 kits were initially distributed to the families of SMILE and Prayaas, parents we worked with during RTE-related programs, and other families in need, through security guards of IIMA, several community volunteers,Aasman Foundation and volunteers of theRobin Hood Army.
As the rates of infection in Ahmedabad spread, it became progressively difficult to get the kits to the households, especially those that were living incontainment zones. At this time, the team switched to primarily sending money to those households who were being identified in need from the surveys. A total of Rs. 2,32,751 was sent to 331 households. The amount of money sent was based on the volunteers’ assessment of household need (number of members, food availability, access to rations, occupation etc.).
Through thethree phases of the surveys the team have been able to survey 740+ families. It was found through thephase 1, phase 2 andphase 3 of the study that the distress, desperation and uncertainty have only compounded, with the continued lockdown and dearth of resources. The findings were extensively covered in leading media houses -Indian Express, Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Bhaskar, Deccan Herald, Ahmedabad Mirror.
Table 1: The team’s outreach through IIMA community links
March 29th to April 15th
Families of SMILE,Prayaas and RTERC, and other families through IIMA security guards
April 15th to May 13th
Families of SMILE, Prayaas and RTERC
May 13th to May 28th
SMILE, Prayaas and RTERC
The next phase of relief work was driven by calls of distress to team members from families living in containment zones. In the first week of May when the guidelines of lockdown were made stricter, some of the neighbourhoods got severely affected. Slums are often stigmatised and because of high density living, they are also becoming hotspots of spread of the covid. Most families living in some of the slums we reached out to depended on precarious daily wage occupations, like home-based work, driving autos, small-scale industries, artisans, street-vending etc. These communities are left exposed to hunger and worsening access to basic services.
Hollywood basti, Gulbai tekra, was one such area. We started distributing small amounts of money (~ Rs. 250 to 500) to help families through the strict lockdown period, as we increasingly found it difficult to procure ration. We pooled in money from personal funds, reaching out to 189 families during the week.
Of those who called for help, we also received calls from some who had been able to retain their jobs. They had been helping their neighbours and wanted to help more residents but did not have enough resources. The process of slowly building trust between the volunteers and us is largely credited to the volunteers. They shot videos, took photos of the rations/small amounts of cash that they distributed. We were able to converse on video calls with some families who needed help too.
After conversations with the volunteers and other organizations working in the area, we decided to then increase the scale through an online campaign on ketto. We were then able to reach 180+ families with ration kits through the volunteers in Hollywood Basti.
Figure 2: Areas of work
We increasingly realised the distress of slums in the city. Several community volunteers, who often themselves were in difficult situations, stepped up. We had worked with them on various research projects and they know the communities they work in as insiders.
With their help, we were able to chart out a plan to provide relief in a targeted manner to some more slums in the city. So we expanded the ketto campaign and merged the funds raised by RTERC through the IIMA community. We have been able to expand to - Danilimda, Bapunagar, Wadaj, Fatehwadi, Vatva and Behrampura where intensive focus is being given in terms of identification and ration kit distribution.
With the lockdown relaxing, several of these slums are in containment zones. In others, their occupations remain affected. Some families have reached out to us asking for help to restart their businesses. We are therefore now trying to work on the operationalization of supporting affected livelihoods (more in section ‘Thinking Ahead’) in these slums.
Table 2: The team’s outreach outside the IIMA network
Reaching out outside the IIMA network
April 1st to April 30th
90 laborers from Jharkhand for a month
Financially supported the community kitchen
May 7th to May 15th
Very small amounts of cash transfers
May 24th – May 28th
May 15th – May 28th
Ration kits, with the help of Infoanalytica
March 29th – April 15th
Juhapura, Vatva, Narol
Juhapura, Vatva, Bombay hotel, Odhav, Wadaj, Sabarmati, Gota, Danilimbda, Narol, Fatehwadi
Ration kits funded by other organizations, calls and concerns collected run by our team
Working with several organizations, also gave some of us opportunities to support, streamlining and organize several other initiatives in the city. Some of which are discussed below:
Within two days of the lockdown, volunteers began their initiative supporting a community worker who is also doing a Ph.D. from Gujarat University, Ajaz Sheikh to help map out clusters of work sites where migrant workers were stranded without any food or income and raising funds to help support families.
Over 252 families of particularly vulnerable daily wagers and migrant labourers in the eastern part of the city (Gomtipur, Rakhial, Bapunagar, Saraspur, Amraiwadi, Behrampura, Vatva) were identified and funds were raised to support their daily food needs in support with the local police. These efforts led to the creation of community kitchens used by around 4000 workers and supported by Janvikas.
The team also supported the efforts of Ajaz Sheikh and his group of volunteers, identifying over 4,000 daily wage migrant workers who were stuck in their workplace. The IIM team helped do the back-end work of geo-tagging the places, as the volunteers reported on WhatsApp, making it easier to deliver cooked food everyday for 45 days.
Through April, team members also help setting up a community kitchen in Narol, for 90 labourers from Jharkhand for a month. The funds to support this kitchen were raised through a ketto campaign, after a month this kitchen was taken over by a local organization (Parwaaz).
The team has also been involved in - helping migrants get ration, getting lockdown exempt passes made, registration, digitising data and coordinating with the governments of Gujarat and Jharkhand for easy passage of migrants. The team has so far assisted around 800 people in getting train tickets, funds for bus tickets and arranging private transport. The team raised around 5 lakhs for travel of 112 migrant workers (from Bihar and Jharkhand) from an umbrella organisation of funders that was directly paid to the transportation company.
Some students got to put together infographics on shelters and they could be run in some languages - English, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Gujarati. It was also shared with potential organizations that could use it like Goonj.
As the work gathered pace, funds have been raised through different channels. We first started with reaching out to the IIMA community for funding for the distribution of ration kits.
Upon identification of communities that required intensive action, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise 1 lakh rupees for supporting Hollywood Basti, Gulbai Tekra, on 16th May. On 21st May, the campaign was also extended to Bombay Hotel and Fatehwadi, and other slums in Ahmedabad and the amount targeted to 6 lakhs. The campaign is still continuing to date.
An online workshop on Consult Case preparation organized by a recent alumnus enabled the procurement of funds totalling INR 1,19,192. The workshop, supported by the Product Management Club of IIMA, was attended by 112 participants.
Table 3: Details of Funds generated & Expenditures (as on 03/06/2020)
Total Fund Raised (INR)
Total expenditure (INR)
25th March to 28th April
Collected through IIMA staff
1, 10, 900
1st April - 31st May
Ketto.org campaign (1st April - 31st May)
Ketto processing fee (~9%)
April 5th - ongoing
From IIMA Community (5th April - 13th May)
From IIMA Community (13th May - )
Cash Transfers for groceries and medicine
Ketto.org campaign (16th to 21st May) (97% obtainable)
Estimated Ketto.org Processing fees (approx.)
Ketto.org Campaign (21st May to June 3rd) (97% obtainable)
Also, some funds are kept aside to ensure that volunteers remain safe - providing masks, gloves, and sanitizers. Volunteers also made sure that they maintain social distance during the work. Yet despite their best efforts, two of our volunteers and their families continue to face distress as a result of infections.
Please note: The number of beneficiaries and financial expenditure are updated till the 3rd of June, 2020.
Through these months, we’ve learnt and evolved ways in which we reached out to the affected residents of the city. Through the exercise, the hope is to mobilize and strengthen new community actors, those that are not necessarily involved with existing NGOs. In this way, we hope we will strengthen more local and community based mobilization for future activities.
As we work on the ground, we realize that the need for relief is overwhelming. Over 200 households that need assistance in food in the immediate future have already been brought to our attention. As communities try to get back on their feet, we are also planning to attempt creative ways to support and build livelihoods to understand and act in order to help them do so.
While several students, researchers and faculty of IIMA are involved, none of this would have been possible without the support of several people within our networks inside and outside campus - security guards, student volunteers and grassroots civil society organizations, motivated individuals from the community, who helped reach pockets that we could not have been able to reach from within the safe spaces of our homes/hostels. Ajaz Shaikh, Hozefa Ujjaini, Shailesh Sah, InfoAnalytica Foundation and the Ahmedabad Project, members of the police, Sr. Police Inspector Chirag Tandel and team (Gomtipur Police Station) contributed the most and we hope we enabled/aided their efforts.
With the campaign, other groups working in the city also assisted the team’s efforts. An IIM Alumni group, “Smiles for All”, has lended its support to provide ration kits to 400 families, to be distributed in Fatehwadi and Danilimda. In one case, a supplier provided rice, pulses and oil without charging anything. This support has been very encouraging and inspiring.
The community volunteers namely: Khairun Pathan, Samina Malik, Iqbalunnisha, Hajra Darji, Afsana Shaikh in Fatehwadi; Rehana Qureshi, Fareed Shaikh, Sajid Shaikh, Sajid Mansuri in Danilimda/Bombay hotel; Shailesh Sah in Vatva; Chandrakant Makwana in Wadaj; Zakir Kazi in Bapunagar and Behrampura; Mahesh, Mohan, Satish, Sindhel, Navghan, Rupesh, Devi, Lela, Jayesh, Ratan and Pravin in Gulbai Tekra; Rafiq Ghanchi (Late), Mushtaq Ali Shaikh,Praveen Soya, Ashok Parmar, Abdullah Tachi, Sabir Shaikh, Aslam Sandhi, Sadiq Jhandul, Aabid Shaikh, Aasif Saiyed, Piyush Rathod, Kalpesh Gohel, Saiyum Khan, Nabiullah Pathan, Asif Pawar, Zakir Ansari, Razauddin Shaikh, Farooq Shaikh, Rafiq Ansari, Constable Anil Bhai, Saurabh Christian, Kaleem Siddiqui, Azhar Rathod, PSI Bhatia (Rakhial Police Station) - have by all means, led the team’s way.
The team at IIMA included over 80 volunteers consisting of PGP and FPM students, faculty, research and academic associates as well as interns.
We’ve struggled with questions of what impact this initiative could make. With the distress call, we are acutely aware of our inability to reach them all. However, our humble effort is to reach out to those who have fallen between the cracks of government efforts and efforts of other civil society organizations. The community volunteers have been helping us to identify such families.
We’ve also grappled with questions of our accountability towards the communities we’re trying to reach out to, and to our sponsors and donors. As a result, we have decided to share regular and timely updates with our supporters. The campaign has also been shared with our community volunteers whom we shall be supporting through our efforts, as they try to reach out to their community, even when many of them struggle economically themselves. We hope to mobilize and strengthen new community actors, those that are not necessarily involved with existing NGOs. In this way, we hope we will strengthen more local and community based mobilization for future activities.
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