Pune, the hub of competitive exams in India, has a massive student population with many of them stranded in the city due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
Amid the crisis, these students who hail from different parts of Maharashtra, neither have money, food, nor books to study and a place to stay. However, three organizations — Arham, Vande Mataram Sanghatana, and Sarhad — working in the social sector in the city joined hands to provide essentials and books to those stranded.
Following the closure of coaching and educational institutions, the students are not just facing troubles filling their stomachs but also preparing for the competitive exams.
To date, apart from a meal for about 1000 students each day, the groups have also distributed around 2000 books.
“In the beginning, we got a call from 2-3 students for the meal. So I was providing it from my home itself. But later demand increased so we teamed up with the few other organisations (Sarhad MPSC students rights group and Vande Mataram Sanghatana) and began distributing food to our maximum capacity. Since March 24 we are providing meals every single day,” Shailesh Pagariya, the President of Arham Foundation told The Federal.
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Mahesh Bade, a coordinator of the MPSC Students Rights Group said, “We began the book distribution on April 14, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. 2000 books worth ₹1.5 lakh has been distributed till now, including extra-curricular and reference books like biographies, politics, and policy-related books, etc. that will eventually help them in their studies.”
There are 21 spots in the city where the food is distributed on a daily basis.
“The same spots were used to distribute books among the students. This made sure that we follow all the preventive measures such as social distancing and sanitation and the books get their way in the right hands,” Pagariya said.
“We have provided a PDF list to each food distribution spot. While collecting their meals, students return their book and take a new one as and when done with reading. The main concern is the utilization of time,” said Bade while explaining the exchange mechanism.
The organisations also have additional books available with them, a list of which has been circulated among the students.
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Amol Wankhede, a student from Buldhana district, said he’s much relieved as he need not worry about the food.
“They (organizers) not only filled our stomach but also provided us the food for thought. I’m very grateful to them. We get roti and sabzi two times a day and have to collect it from the designated spot,” he said.
He said that the volunteers have made sure to follow the safety measures set by the government which makes students like him.