Tribal farmers get free masks allowing them to continue working during lockdown
Dhana Pakkiyam, 75, works as a sweeper who earns Rs200 per month, cleaning a housing complex area in Kolli Hills, near Salem, India. To supplement her income, the mother of three works as a helper in the pepper, coffee and clove farm where she is paid Rs150 per day.
“Working in the farms is seasonal employment which means I only have this additional income opportunity for three or four months in a year, so I look forward to the work,” she said.
“Unfortunately, this year during the harvest season, the government ordered a lockdown due to Covid_19 but those in agriculture were allowed to work. When we heard about the virus, I was afraid of going out to work but I was also worried about having an income as as this is the only time for people like us to earn additional money,” she said.
She is saving money for her grandchildren to go to school, an opportunity that neither she nor her children had due to extreme poverty.
Dhana is among the many coffee and pepper farm workers at Kolli Hills who are some of the poorest people in the area. They often work on land that belongs to others for a living. Most of them do not own houses and often live on government land.
Through social entrepreneur Thirupathi Perumal, RYTHM Foundation in partnership with QI Group’s hospitality and leisure subsidiary QLifestyle, contributed free masks to the tribal farmers and their workers in Kolli Hills and surgical gloves to health care officials at the government Primary Health Centre Sollakadu, Kolli Hills where positive Covid_19 patients are held in quarantine.
“Now I feel safe going out to work with these masks on,” says Dhana, a widow, who lives alone after her children married and moved away.
Apart from the distribution of the masks and gloves, Thirupathi has also taken on other humanitarian assistance projects such as food distribution to the homeless and elderly in the area, as well as provide food items to daily wage earners who are unable to earn during the lockdown period.
Thirupathi Perumal is one of the three social entrepreneurs sponsored by RYTHM Foundation under the Sadguru Gnanananda Fellowship, a project of Manava Seva Dharma Samvardhani Trust (MSDS). The fellowship is offered to young citizens who are socially conscious and work on projects to benefit marginalised groups or people in rural areas.