They risk lives to care for those left abandoned

At a time when the city has largely come to a grinding halt and as people stay indoors and remain skeptical, there are still good Samaritans who are coming out to help others, all the while putting themselves at risk. G R Sivakumar, an activist from the city, and his team of 15 volunteers are working tirelessly on streets to save aged people abandoned on the streets with no food or water. They are the most vulnerable for two reasons -they are the most susceptible to the disease and can also become super spreaders. When he heard about Janata Curfew proposed by the Prime Minister, the first thing came to his mind was the helpless people living on city streets, as they would be the first to be affected. With the help of a small team of volunteers, he started reaching out. The district administration and the corporation was so impressed by his work that they also chipped in. The Madurai corporation has extended every possible support including arranging a couple of shelters, food and other basic amenities. Sivakumar has been helping abandoned people by shifting them to homes, providing medical care and food after tying up with various NGOs in the last 10 years. He launched Idhayam trust in 2011and also launched a helpline. He is supported by a volunteer team including R Kalaivani, S Ayyanar, M Sundar and Sudhagar and Muthaiah. On Saturday, a day before Janata Curfew, his team rescued around 80 elderly people from various parts of the city. At least half of them left the place after the curfew. They have so far rescued around 200 people and with the situation turning grim, nobody wants to leave now. “The first thing we do is give a haircut and a bath. They are given new clothes provided by the district administration and obtained through sponsorship. They are provided with tea, snacks and quality food,” Sivakumar said.Sivakumar has hardly any time to visit his house as the responsibility of looking after so many people keeps him on his t oes. “It is not easy to manage them,” he says. “Some will keep complaining, screaming and would require medical emergency, which keep us awake at night too. We have to be with them round the clock to keep them under control and ensure they maintain social distance. When we get time, we reach out to other needy persons in the city to distribute food,” he added.