Shatrunjay Mall, student of Connecticut University studying for a bachelor’s degree in Economics and History, is currently on his internship with Maitri. Recently, he visited Maitri’s Targeted Intervention (TI) project implemented among Rickshaw Pullers in Delhi. On his visit, he met with several Rickshaw Pullers who actively participate and benefit from Maitri’s project. Here he writes about one of the rickshaw pullers he met and left quite an impression on him.
Santosh originally comes from the drought-hit Chhatarpur District in Madhya Pradesh, which is also home to the famous temples of Khujaraho. Like much of rural India, Santosh Gupta’s village has been in conditions of severe economic distress.
Agriculture, which is completely dependent on the erratic monsoons, has been adversely affected because of the long dry spells and a lack of adequate rains in recent years. These dire conditions have been compounded by the sheer absence of government support and an administration unconcerned with providing for the basic needs of all citizens. This has resulted in the migrations of streams of people from villages to the big city in search of a livelihood to sustain themselves.
Santosh was one of these young men when he came to Delhi some twelve years ago. Like many of his fellow migrants to the city, he worked as a cycle rickshaw puller. As a migrant to Delhi, Santosh did not have the means to access the citizenship rights that he deserved. He immensely benefited from Maitri’s program to provide migrants with the means to access government benefits through getting UID Cards, Election Commission Cards and Ration Cards.
Just like other rickshaw pullers, Santosh did not own the cycle rickshaw that he used to make his living, and needed to rent it from its owners. However, through good fortune and years of hard work, he was able to purchase the rickshaw from its owner. He would eventually buy other rickshaws, and become a businessman in his own right, as the owner of fifty such rickshaws.
Just like he had benefited from Maitri’s programs, the pullers of Gupta’s rickshaws have also received the documentation to become full citizens of the city. They also gain from the medical camps organized, with the support of medical professionals, by Maitri on a regular basis.
Santosh has also played an active role in Maitri’s program to prevent HIV infections. Male migrant labour in the city are a high risk group for HIV, and it has been necessary to educate them about safe sex and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
At the convenience store that Gupta runs, condoms are sold to migrants living in the local rickshaw puller community of Dev Nagar. The store is a center through which outreach workers and stakeholders in Maitri’s local program are able to reach out to more people in high-risk categories, and create further awareness about HIV.
For another story from Maitri interns, read here: https://maitriindiablog.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/working-with-children-at-maitri/