Tag Archives: acorn india

Serving Meals in Delhi

From Street Demos to Solidarity Work

Pearl River     What do mass-based organizations and social movements do when their tactics of mass action, disruption, and street protests are impossible due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing?  Do collective actions simply devolve into solitary moans on social media?  No, never!  Mass-based organizations assemble the base into action in another way to serve their members.  Let’s call it solidary or support work, and for all of the companies and governments who think that the dissipation of direct action is a silver lining in the cloud of the coronavirus, here’s bad news for you:  It’s making us stronger!

In the United Kingdom in recent weeks, ACORN mobilized 3500 volunteers to support individuals stuck at home and without services, to support food banks, to pick up groceries and drug prescriptions, and you name it.  Add to that circulating a petition that gained thousands of signatures to stop evictions and demand rent relief for its members.  Throw in this special distribution which is getting props from media throughout the country:

Coronavirus: Latest Information for Renters by ACORN. For those concerned about their housing during the ongoing pandemic, ACORN has a section providing information.

Membership is soaring!

The work gets really direct for ACORN Delhi, where we and one of our affiliates, Janaphal, administer more than a dozen night shelters for migrant workers who were caught by the government shutdown order and police action without work, and therefore income, and of course food as well.  Suddenly, we are running seven kitchens in the centers and during the week went from serving 3000 meals a day to 7000 and still rising.  The government is supposed to reimburse us, but the government was supposed to provide food to these workers during the shutdown.  People come first, as long as we can get the food to cook.

The stories abound throughout the ACORN federation of organizations, but it’s solidarity work with a bite, as collective actions continue where essential workers continue to labor.  In France, our affiliate in Lyon, Uniti, coordinated a strike of security workers being forced to work without personal protection equipment (PPE), and won. In Louisiana, workers in MH/MR community homes run by the giant national service company, ResCare, were left without adequate protection or quarantine procedures once a resident contracted the virus.  Workers passed petitions and joined Local 100 United Labor Unions to demand more from ResCare, despite threats of retaliation. Membership is soaring!

This is happening everywhere.

In Hong Kong, as reported by the Washington Post, “Rather than continuing to plug mass demonstrations, anti-government activists have used the networks they built during months of organizing to import more than 100,000 medical masks and distribute them to people in need.”  In Chile, “they’re also moving to adapt. They’ve been callingcacerolazos — balcony-bound pot-and-pan-banging protests traditional in Latin America — loud enough to drown out music and conversation inside homes. An artist’s collective, Intermediate Depression, published an illustrated “manual for protesting from home” on Instagram, encouraging Chileans to deck their balconies with protest signs, “share [their] favorite songs with [their] neighborhood” and engage in cyberactivism.”

Trust me on this.  In crisis we double down.  People learn what the slogan, “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated,” means in daily life, not just on the streets.

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Indian Informal Workers are Starving

Pearl River     I have to tell the truth.  It’s hard to read some of these reports from near and far complaining about being required to comply with stay-at-home orders in order to protect their own lives and the lives of their community, once again, near and far.  I totally get the ones that are hurting because that means they can’t work and are still trying to file for unemployment across the digital divide and waiting with hopes and prayers to find out if they really got a check of $1200 from the government to help them make it through so they can figure out groceries and rent.

The ones that I don’t get at all are the stories that focus on dealing with boredom, advice about cabin fever, stories about soaring divorce rates in China and soon in the United States because couples had to stay together.  Games are recommended.  Netflix and Amazon Prime shows are ranked.  YouTube comedians are pushed so that they can have their day.

Maybe it’s me?  I keep wondering what world these people are living in?

ACORN has worked in India for over fifteen years now.  We have members in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai, and dozens of other cities.  I get reports from the organizers every day.  We had an emergency WhatsApp call last week with the team in the wake of Prime Minister Narenda Modi declaring a national shutdown in the country with only four hours’ notice.  We have over 50,000 members of ACORN in India and our work is in the mega-slums like Dharavi in Mumbai and in building unions of informal workers in all the other cities.  Our members range from waste pickers to hawkers, street vendors, domestic workers, moto-rickshaw drivers, and informal residential construction workers.  These are daily wage workers.  If they don’t work, they don’t eat.  A stay-at-home order for many is meaningless because no small number are living where they work in their storage sheds or sleeping in their rickshaws.  There is no social distancing in the slums.   The government says it’s going to provide food rations, but they were not ready to do so when they shut the country down, closed the trains for migrant workers to return to their villages, and ordered the police to beat people found out during curfews.  Food is still late in arriving.

An ACORN affiliate and partner, Janapahal, operates more than a dozen night shelters in Delhi for informal and migrant workers without other housing.  I got this message from Darmendra Kumar, ACORN’s Delhi director last night,

“…Janpahal is serving food to migrants in Delhi to support them in surviving 21 days #lockdown.  We are serving more than 5000 meals on a daily basis through out 7 community kitchens to those not having access to food and any welfare measures.”

He asked me to post this on ACORN International’s website, and we will, because we have to do everything that we can do.

My advice to anyone stuck at home and bored is to think about how lucky you are to have food and shelter.  While you’re bored, here’s my advice for a pick me up, and I’ll quote Dharmendra again,

“Kindly donate generously on ACORN International’s website to help us defeat hunger and defeat corona.  All donations will go to feed migrants in India.”

Just say, “Delhi” on the PayPal memo.

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