Public and private parties as well as empathic individuals came out to Azad Maidan to provide support to the farmers gathered there on Monday, by disbursing food, drink, medical care and even shoes. According to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, two ambulances with doctors were provided to cater to dehydration cases and foot injuries. In addition, 60 mobile toilets were stationed and four tankers of drinking water was provided to protesting farmers. “We must have treated more than 150 people since 1pm. Most were cases of exhaustion, dehydration and sun stroke. 2 women had to be taken to the hospital because they fainted. We also had about 30 cases of foot injuries, some blisters were so bad they needed dressings” said Dr Twashti Khobragda, one of 10 volunteer physicians from JJ Hospital. Neneshwar Jadhav, 34, was one such person who had developed painful blisters on his feet on the long march to Mumbai from Nasik. Nirmala Nathan, 50, and Sabiha Khan, 46, were two individuals who recognised the need for proper footwear for the marchers. “My sister and I work closely with the unorganised sector. We collected about 50 pairs of sandals from our neighbourhood women in Collaba and have distributed it to women in need here. We’ve also distributed sarees and biscuits” says Nirmala. Anjubai Gangaram Kanuje, 63, was one such benefactor of the hand-me-downs. The only pair slippers she had owned had broken along the way, after serving her for a year, and she was grateful for a new pair. Sabiha runs a travel agency in Crawford Market and closed the office for the day to distribute over 500 pairs of new shoes. She says, “Our family always does charity and looks for opportunities where we can help people. We saw that people had already taken care of food and water here, but people also really need chappals to get back home”.
Software developer Vaishali Bhalerao, under the guidance of JJ Hospital medical officer, Dr Rewat Kaninde, spent the day distributing sanitary pads to the few number of young women in the crowd, demonstrating their proper use and disposal. The South Mumbai chapter of Shiv Sena were the first on the scene, arriving two hours after the farmers began to arrive at 5 am on Monday morning. It has extended emergency care to the farmers, by making ambulance service available. “Our youth volunteers have been here since 7 am in the morning distributing tea, biscuits, vada pav and water to the protestors. 45,000 cups of water have already been distributed. We have partnered with JJ Hospital and St George Hospital and we have transport services on stand-by” said Pandurang Sakpal, Presdient, Shiv Sena South. Around lunch time, the party workers of Shetkari Kamgar Paksh, arrived with over 1 lakh home -made bhakris and chapatis. “We are serving bhakris, chapatis, baingan sabzi and non-veg sukhe. Our party workers’ wives, mothers and daughters have been up since 3 am preparing food for the farmers. We collected them from their homes across villages and brought it here” explained RD Garad, party representative in Raigarh district, Panvel. BS Baarth, is an advocate who volunteers at the international NGO Khalsa Aid. He and a fellow volunteer, arrived from Punjab on Monday morning and came straight to the scene.
“We’re assessing what is needed and we’ll mobilise the local volunteers to provide support to the farmers. The most pressing need right now, in this heat, is water. We are ordering 10,000 glasses of water and then we’ll assess what else we can do to help” says Baarth. The social NGO Life in Light, led by its founder and president Shakneel Patni, arrived on the scene later on Monday evening, after making the rounds in Byculla to distribute water, chocolates and biscuits among the marchers. The dabbawallas of Mumbai too played their part in helping the farmers. Spokesperson Subash Talekar said, “Usually the parties call us when there is a need like this. Today they didn’t call us but we decided to help anyway. We decided to pitch in from our side and delivered 500 plates of pav bhaji to the people at the morcha”.
Tanvi Shenoy is a student of NSoJ and is an intern with Indian Express, Mumbai