Mumbai

Caring for their own while caring for others

Providing relief: Volunteers of Apnalaya distribute essential supplies in Shivajinagar.

Providing relief: Volunteers of Apnalaya distribute essential supplies in Shivajinagar.  

A city NGO provides health insurance to its volunteers who go from door to door with supplies for the needy

While most Mumbaikars have the ease of going through the lockdown from the comfort of their homes, a few youngsters are risking their lives to help those in need.

These include 40 volunteers with Apnalaya, an NGO which works with communities in the Shivajinagar slum clusters of Govandi, which comes under M-East ward.

Apnalaya has raised funds for insurance cover to its volunteers, who go from door to door each day distributing relief supplies.

Arun Kumar, CEO, Apnalaya, said they didn’t “feel right” about the fact that while they themselves were safe in their homes, their volunteers were out there, risking everything. “All our staffers have medical cover. We decided we can’t be a health rights organisation and not give cover to our own people,” he said.

Raising funds took a while, as individual premium was working out to nearly ₹10,000 per person, and for a group insurance plan, the volunteers needed to be employees. “That set us on a hunt, talking to various people as well as insurers on how to get this done,” Mr. Kumar said.

Venkat Krishnan, a philanthropist, spotted a social media post and reached out to Mr. Kumar. He connected Apnalaya with people he knew at ICICI Lombard and also offered to finance the health insurance.

“I think this is an important thing. Frontline workers are putting their lives at risk to help those in need. We need to give them the cover required. I personally felt that the cost involved was a small sum compared to the risks they are taking in ensuring that support reaches the last mile,” said Mr. Krishnan.

“In many ways, these field workers are taking risks to fulfil our need to help those in need, so as donors we owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Paying for their insurance is just one small way in which we can do it,” he said.

Each volunteer has been insured for up to ₹50,000, which includes a COVID-19 cover, and any other ailment during the year. The NGO has paid a total premium of ₹72,806 to the insurer.

Sanjay Datta, chief, underwriting, claims and reinsurance at ICICI Lombard, said the insurer had come out with a COVID-19 policy covering those with mild symptoms or who had tested positive but may not require hospitalisation. “The regulator has encouraged insurers to come up with products, and our aim was to build awareness as well as make a product available to people should they need it,” he said.

The volunteers, on their part, are relieved that their effort is appreciated and supported. Nasreen Ansari (20), a Third Year Bachelor of Arts student, who lives in Shivajinagar, said she “felt good” that her safety and health, like those of 39 others, had been looked into. In a day, she covers 70 to 100 houses for relief work, between 6.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. “Initially, I was scared to go out, even though we sanitise ourselves, wear masks and maintain physical distancing,” she said. “But when I saw the people suffering from hunger in my locality, I knew I had to go out there and do something.”

She said her family was lucky as they had a ration card and could procure supplies. “Ever since the lockdown was announced, people have been going to faraway places to just procure food,” she said.

For people like her, the medical cover is a motivator and source of hope.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 4:24:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/caring-for-their-own-while-caring-for-others/article31561805.ece

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