Although the lockdown meant the collapse of his cable business, Prakash Kumbhar didn’t let that stop him from working to help those in more desperate straits. The entrepreneur has set systems in place to organise relief work and worked with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure ration is distributed to residents of Mankhurd transit camp.
When his cable business stopped making money during lockdown, Kumbhar started selling vegetables to make ends meet. He also gathered volunteers and undertook a survey of Mankhurd transit camp. He developed a colour-coded system to figure out who needed immediate help. Those with no ration were in the red category; those with a week’s were in orange and those with more than a week’s ration were in green.
“Among 1,200 houses, there would have been only 10 which had more than a week’s ration [soon after the lockdown],” said Kumbhar, who is also a social worker and associated with Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ (TISS) M-ward project. He contacted NGOs and institutions like TISS and Khaana Chahiye to arrange ration for families of labourers, migrant workers, auto and taxi drivers, and others in need.
“I also got in touch with other community leaders in Mandala, Ekta Nagar, Sathe Nagar and asked them to undertake a similar survey. Now, every 15 days, we distribute ration to the families as per the number of members in the family,” Kumbhar said.
Residents of Mankhurd transit camp have been living in poor and cramped housing conditions for years now. Kumbhar and his team also cleaned and beautified a small open space in the area where residents could spend some time in the day, he said.
Amita Bhide, dean, school of habitat studies, TISS, who helped Kumbhar, praised his leadership. “We must remember here that unlike housing societies, these are informal settlements where no one has a formal role to play. Still, community members like Prakash who have a strong base in the community, have displayed remarkable leadership skills,” Bhide said.