The following incident is about a 29-year-old migrant called Naresh*. He hails from a village near Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. Naresh along with his parents and relatives came to Bhuj post the 2001 earthquake and have now been living here for the past 21 years.
As migrants, Naresh and his family, all work with scrap. They collect the scrap and see what all is useful and can be utilized in different manners. After segregation, they get rid of all the useless things and sell everything that is leftover. This is how the family makes their living. Naresh has a family of his own, a wife and three children, all of them live in his village. In Bhuj, the family lives in Leva Patel and has been getting aid from the SETU Abhiyan team and Homes In The City (HIC) fellows.
On 19th September, 2021, Naresh had gone to Raghuvanshi Nagar in Bhuj to collect scrap materials. He was picking empty plastic bottles when an unknown vehicle hit him from behind. Naresh fell onto the sidewalk of the bridge. He was unconscious for some time when a while later, pedestrians saw him and took him to G.K. Hospital. After getting admitted, it was found out that he had broken his lower spine and needed to get operated on to get two rods to fit in. The operation cost was estimated at INR 40,000. The cost was reduced after the SETU team spoke with the concerned authorities, like the hospital, Nirman Sathi Sangathan (NSS), and Mohamadeen Charitable Trust. The cost was brought down to INR 17,000.
Finally, Naresh had the operation which went on for approximately 11 hours. The expenses of this operation were covered by different sources. The hospital decided to bear half the cost, the other half was collected through donations from people and migrants living in Khasra and Leva Patel. Money was also pooled in by office members of SETU Abhiyan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, and HIC through personal contributions. Once the operation was successful, the family had to take care of medicines and other equipment needed to take care of Naresh. These bills were paid by the family and amounted to INR 20,000.
Impact Of The Incident
After the operation, the family received a ration kit aid for the next 5 months with help and support from various organizations and sources. This was to help the family sustain while Naresh was recovering in the hospital. As he was the sole breadwinner for the family there was no income during this time. Since Naresh’s spine was injured, he was unable to do anything on his own and his mother took care of him on a daily basis. Until three months after the operation, Naresh’s mother did all his daily work from feeding him to bathing him. He was only able to sit up and walk on his own after 3 to 4 months.
A day prior to Naresh’s accident, his wife had given birth to their daughter. His wife was unable to come and take care of Naresh as she had to look after the child and recover from the postpartum stress herself. The accident meant that he was not able to work and send money that he would do previously. This also created a financial burden on his wife who now stays with her own family to take care of herself and her children.
The accident wreaked havoc on Naresh’s and his family’s as well. This havoc was physical in nature but had mental repercussions as well. Naresh felt a lot of pressure from not being able to work and earn money to provide for his family and children’s education. Naresh continues to remain stressed and feels the pressure of having his family take care of him. His relative said, “We try to have him help us out with small things so that he feels useful and does not get depressed”.
Naresh said that his back still hurts but he is ready to take as much time as needed to fix it so that it does not cause a problem in the future. He was particularly grateful to NSS, Setu Abhiyan and HIC members for helping him and his family out in different ways that created a difference for them. Having such organizations help out migrants feels like a blessing for them otherwise the problems they face would seem larger and much worse.
About Nirman Sathi Sangathan
Nirman Sathi Sangathan (NSS) is an association that has been formed for safeguarding and protecting the interests and rights of migrants. The Sangathan was formed with small committees of migrant workers living in areas of Bhuj city, like Khasra, RTO, and Leva Patel coming together. These committees consisted of migrants who were active in terms of participation and wanted to work and solve the issues and problems that the migrants living there have to face. From these committees, 3-4 members were selected to be a part of the Nirman Sathi Sangathan. Some other active migrant workers were also selected to be a part of it. The Sangathan was then formed with 13 members, which then decided the details of their work and issues, who the President will be, how to mobilize other migrants in speaking up for their rights etc.
With the presence of NSS, migrants feel comfortable enough to discuss and bring up their issues related to availing schemes, benefits, lack of basic facilities like food, water and shelter. Having the Sangathan ensures that the problems which are being faced by the workers in reality are being put across. Team members from Homes in the City (HIC) and SETU Abhiyan are deeply invested in working with and for the migrant community. The Sangathan members are made aware of their roles, responsibilities and how to communicate with various officials etc.
When the right facilitation and information were provided to the migrant workers, it was seen that there was no dearth of courage in them to speak up. NSS provides a formal platform to them to take actions on the injustice and tough situations that many migrant individuals and families endure silently. It provides a sense of community and space where their voices, needs, and rights are heard.
As highlighted in the above incident, Naresh was given help as the migrants had collectivized through the Sangathan and looked out for each other. After the incident, the members of NSS were informed and they sprung into action to help Naresh and his family in different ways. This incident showcases the role played by the Sangathan and when there is a need, people come together to provide support in various ways.
This incident and the response of the people gives one hope and faith that no matter how underprivileged someone may be, they will have aid of the NSS and those connected to it. The formation of such associations has the power to help out those in distress, not only in Bhuj city but across the District and State. Providing aid to migrant workers becomes possible due to the established Associations and networks with other organizations across Gujarat and even other states.
*Name changed to protect the identity of the individual