WATFORD, United Kingdom — The Economic Times conducted an interview and found that due to the economic recession taking place in the India, “[daily wage earners]are able to find less than 15 days of work in a month.” Living on the equivalent of two dollars a day, with no guarantee of receiving work the next day, most low-income households in India face abject poverty. This causes a never-ending cycle of poverty and hunger in India and leads to homelessness and child labor.
The National Level minimum wage in India is INR 178 ($2.16/£1.73) per day according to a 2022 report by India Briefing, a subsidiary of Asia Briefing which is an organization that provides research, opinion and advice about business in Asian countries.
Surveying Begging in India
In 2011, the Government of India released a “Survey on Beggars” through the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. According to that census, there were “4,13,670 beggars and vagrants in the country.” The Government tried to fix the issue through an initiative called “Comprehensive rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging” as the issue is still uncontrolled and it is common to see beggars on the streets of India, dressed in rags, begging for money or food.
Most people living in the country are so desensitized to the sight, they do not pay any heed to the overwhelming issue. On the other hand, Rukhsheen Vajifdar, a resident of Pune, Maharashtra, started a small, home-run social initiative for the betterment of low-income individuals in the area. Rukhsheen said that she has been “significantly inclined towards social causes ever since [she]can remember.” She volunteered at various NGOs and non-profits over the years, including the Shreevatsa Adoption Center, the Muktangan De-Addiction Center and the Manavya Home for HIV+ Children. Having spent much time around disadvantaged people, she focused her time and energy on a cause that meant a lot to her. She said that, initially, all she aimed for was to have the underprivileged children in her area be able to sleep with “happy hearts and full stomachs.”
The Onset of F.E.E.D
Along with her family, Rukhsheen started F.E.E.D. (Food and Education to Enrich and Develop) in 2010 to address the ever-growing problem of hunger in India. She knew initially that she could not take care of hunger around the world, and that solving such a large, international issue would take a lot more manpower and resources than she had available. But she took it upon herself to try to feed the starving children in the streets of Pune.
With the help of her mother, Kashmira, F.E.E.D. began to cook and pack meals for 30 children on weekdays and up to 100 children on weekends. Over the next few years, the initiative gained more traction and support from other businesses and individuals and began to donate blankets and warm clothes to the homeless people of Pune.
When Nepal was faced with a devastating earthquake in 2015, F.E.E.D. made diligent efforts to support the victims. During the interview, Rukhsheen said, “I had taken on a mammoth task; bigger and more difficult than I had imagined it to be.”
She had to coordinate with national authorities and airlines and was worried that providing help to another country would be an enormous – almost impossible – challenge because F.E.E.D. was a small, home-run project. In spite of that, Rukhsheen and her team came through and sent over 1,000 blankets and 800 kilograms of medication to help those who had been affected by the earthquake.
‘Adopting’ an Indian Village
Over the years, F.E.E.D. grew from a small, home-run project to a much larger initiative that provided food and water for small, neglected villages around Pune. During the terrible drought of 2016, many villages suffered immensely and women had to walk for miles to fill pails of water for their families. A small village called Indrayani was among one of the worst impacted by the drought. Rukhsheen and her team ‘adopted’ the village and took care of the water shortage by routinely sending water tankers to the village throughout the drought, till the onset of monsoon.
Till today, F.E.E.D. continues to help the less fortunate by feeding starving children in Pune and does its part to fight the never-ending cycle of poverty and hunger in India.
– Vahisté Sinor