Bheema Adiwasi, 40, is a Sahariya tribal. Like most members of his community — one of the poorest and impoverished in India —- he has no steady income; he occasionally earns some money by working in the fields of a local landlord in the Vijaypur block of Sheopur district, Madhya Pradesh. Bheema is entitled to Rs 600 per month disability pension from the government, but unfortunately the allowance does not reach his account every month.

But poverty and destitution are not Bheema’s only challenges; he is also hearing and speech impaired.

When the coronavirus pandemic-sparked national lockdown started in March, the State-provided safety net did not prove to be adequate for Bheema. It was only due to the timely intervention of Dharti Sanstha, a BRLF partner organisation, that he did not go hungry.

The staff of Dharti Sanstha came across Bheema while they were distributing ration and sanitation kits in the Sahariya area. Bheema was standing at a distance and gesturing animatedly at them. When one of the staff members approached Bheema, the local people appraised him about the 40-year-old’s appalling situation.

“Bheema came with his Aadhaar card to see if his name was on the ration distribution list,” said one of Dharti Sanstha’s staff members. “He has no family to take care of him since his brothers stay with their respective families”. His brothers, the locals added, have encroached upon Bheema’s small patch of land, leaving him at the mercy of others.

Once they were apprised of the situation, the Dharti Sanstha staff went to Bheema’s house to check his condition. They found he had no ration at home and no money to buy anything. Bheema’s bank passbook did not show any deposit. “Bheema was crying and trying to tell us that he has not received any support from the government,” they added.

The Dharti Sanstha staff provided him a ration kit that takes care of his food security and the sanitation needs. The kit, which has items to last for 10 days, includes rice (10 kg), potato (4 kg), musoor dal (1 kg), soybeans (500 gm), mustard oil (1 litre), salt (1 kg), spices (five packets), and soap bars (five pieces). Apart from this ration kit, Bheema has now received 30 Kg wheat, 5 Kg rice, one kg salt from the State-run public distribution system.

Bheema was very relieved and happy after receiving the ration kit from the Dharti Sanstha staff. To show his gratitude, he warmly saluted the Dharti and BRLF staff, and also said “thank you” in sign language. It was indeed a touching gesture.