The women of Bengaluru slums who fought Covid and family’s hunger

Rehana M (left) with Ruksar Banu (right) in Bengaluru's Ramachandrapuram slum. Women volunteers like them have been engaged by the municipal corporation of Bengaluru to conduct coronavirus-related sensitisation, testing, isolation and medical care of slum dwellers. Photos: Maitreyee Boruah

It’s 4 am and pitch dark in India’s IT hub Bengaluru. Baby A, a 37-year-old mother, from the city’s Gautam Nagar slum, is up and hastening to finish her household chores before she heads out for work at 9 am. “It’s my daily routine, except for Sundays, since August 2020, when I took up the work of a Covid-19 healthcare volunteer,” says Baby, a Dalit woman.

On the ground floor of the dilapidated building where Baby stays, lives Shalini S (19) with her family. After clearing her class 12 board exams in 2020, Shalini too has been working as a Covid-19 healthcare volunteer.

While Shalini is almost 20 years younger than her neighbour Baby, it’s their economic condition that forced both of them to earn their livelihood for the first time in life. Shalini, who is also a Dalit, discontinued education to feed her family. Her mother has been bedridden for several years because of severe diabetes. Her younger brother is studying and her father, a carpenter, does not have work since the pandemic ravaged the world in 2020.

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