Days after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, sex workers in Sonagachi, Asia's largest red-light area in Kolkata, realized that empty lanes in their neighborhood meant no wage and spell destruction physical disability for retirees.
About 8,000 sex workers live and work in Sonagachi and adjoining Sethbagan and Rambagan in North Kolkata, and for the lockout period – which began on March 25 and lasted until June 15 – their work, and earning potential, came to an end. A grinding hult.
In another part of the 300-year-old city, Deepali Bhattacharya, a retired principal of the Government College College of Art and Craft, his friend Aditi Roy Ghatak, a journalist and activist, and other friends understood the effects of the lockdown on sensitive people. Groups that rely on daily income to feed themselves and their families. Despite the Covid-19 epidemic, they had a lifelong experience, they said.
For the past two months, the group has been distributing food items and sanitary napkins, not only in the pockets of small red lights in Sonagachi and Kalighat in south Kolkata, but also in slums, returning to their hometowns of West Bengal and the people of the northern and southern provinces.
"When we came to the inter-state helpline run by Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, a former mayor of Kolkata and a member of the Rajya Sabha, we were looking for a supplier of gloves and masks to distribute among the people. We joined his team, and soon, along with some (other) members of the helpline, started our initiative 'Ektu Din' (Give a little), "Bhattacharya said.
The former mayor formed a team of lawyers and social workers in April to run a helpline for migrant workers trapped in other states and enable them to return home.
The effort made by Give Little is significant. On May 17, academics from the Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School released findings from a study called Modeling the Effect of Contissual Closure of Red-Light Areas on COVID-19 Transmissions in India, stating that Indians were at much lower risk. Get Covid-19 if the red light areas are kept closed after lockdown until an effective treatment or vaccine for Covid-19 is developed.
According to the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), there are more than 6,377,500,000 sex workers in India and more than 40,000,000 customers visit red-light areas every day. Studies have shown that if red-light areas begin to operate, the disease spreads very quickly and infects a very high percentage of sex workers and consumers.
The study estimates that there could be a 36-day delay in the peak of the Covid-19 case in Colkid if red light areas are kept closed after the lockdown. While the science behind the study was sound, it was not part of a deeper economic crisis surrounding sex workers.
Despite emerging from the Kolkata lockdown, business in Sonagachi remains the same, residents said.
“Our business has been badly affected and it has become very difficult to feed our children and the elderly who cannot get out. Original groceries and hygiene products are a big help, & # 39; & # 39; One of the residents, who asked not to be named, said.
“A resident named Moti Sur conducted a quick survey and identified 250 people in need of help. Sur has known the area and its inhabitants for years. There was no protest from the police. Indira Kanjilal, editor of the business magazine and a member of the main team, said they never stop doing charity work in general.
Sur takes into account how many children and elderly people there are in each household, as well as those who were extremely poor or sick.
As many as five volunteers visited Sonagachi six times, each with 250 kits of salt and oil plus five kilos of rice, two kilos of flour, one kilos of lentils. All the volunteers wore worse masks while they were walking down the street, and the women would come out and collect them from them to maintain an effective physical distance.
"It was not easy to pack rice, lentils, cooking oil and other items in each packet and distribute them among the residents of Sonagachi. More than 10,000 women live there. Helping all of them was beyond our means, ”Kanjilal said.
Cyclone Amphen then struck the coast of West Bengal on May 20, killing 98 people and displacing one million.
"Friends and acquaintances started funding the moment we spread the word on social media. Our work has multiplied since Cyclone Amphen devastated the South Bengal district. Bhattacharya estimates that we have helped about 10,000 people so far.
“Our supporters have funded us to help everyone; From the people of Sundarbans village to rag-pickers at the Dhap dumping ground in Kolkata. Help from around the world, & # 39; & # 39; Roy Ghatak said.
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