When the COVID19 pandemic hit, it hit hard as the global economy ground to a halt. In the midst of the on-going pandemic, among the hardest hit sectors were the informal workforce sector, the ‘essential workers’ sector which includes rag pickers, doms, sweepers and janitors, office peons, small office clerks and sex workers. Some of these people live in places where social distancing is a luxury: Dingy ghettos with barely a foot between two houses with some of these ‘houses’ being barely wide enough for five or six people to sleep in, not live in. Some of the people of the lower middle cannot beg and are forced to starve themselves and their families day after day. Many among these people do not have a ration card to avail government rations.

Three leaders, three young students: Saheli Chakraborty, a law student of NUJS, Kolkata; the two engineering students Namrata Chakraborty and Turbasu Chatterjee, leaders of Lions Club of Kolkata Rabindra Sarovar all with a common ideology came together and formed Hriday: a project in answer to these dire circumstances. The goal? To stand united and fight hunger among the underprivileged and the less fortunate. A plan was drafted in one short day, and they began crowd funding the entire project. Little by little as the funds and contribution in kind came in, the project grew until it was decided that distribution would begin. On the first day, till today for the last three phases of Lockdown, the young leaders have been on the ground. Unlike, most of the organisation, they have not donated or done the project through any other ground. Rather, they themselves have been on the ground distributing the same, and have reached to over 30,000 people, with their ration packets. But this was merely the start. Each and every day, funds were collected by running from pillar to post, orders were placed, packaged and transported. They poured in every bit of love and care into each step of the process, ensuring that, being the face of the youth in Bengal, there was no room for error and that thousands depended on their efforts. As the project grew and gathered momentum, it caught the eye of youth icon and Member of Parliament Nusrat Jahan, who came out to support them in their efforts. Together they had managed to send over 200 packets to Basirhat, West Bengal, which shall cover more than 7 days. And, this project is not limited to city. The young students have no shied away from travelling This is not a promotion. It is not a vulgar display of power. Hriday has grown out of a small idea and is now feeding hundreds on a daily basis. This is a call for the youth: The youth of Kolkata, the youth of Bengal, the youth of India. “This project is just far from over: It is just
the beginning. We have tried to get Hriday off the ground and we have succeeded, but we need all the support we can get.”, said Saheli Chakraborty. Her words are reflected by Turbasu Chatterjee who said,” Hriday is not my project. It is not Saheli’s project and it is not Namrata’s project: Hriday represents the youth and the youth represent Hriday.” When asked if they have any plans for stopping any time soon, Namrata Chakraborty said, “As long as we have the support of the youth, we have no intention of stopping. There are many, many more mouths to feed.”

Indeed the youth have paved the way and have shown us what great lengths can be achieved. And if all this can be achieved by just three people, it just goes to show how much can be achieved if this becomes a collective effort.

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