Helplessness, homelessness and a struggle for hope in Bangalore

Jul 16, 2020 by

The Times reported on July 15 that “Bangalore, a hub for India’s thriving tech industry, and home to 8.4 million, has imposed a week-long lockdown. The southern city had barely 1,000 cases in mid-June but as India reopened, and domestic flights resumed, infections rose to nearly 20,000 on Monday.”

Canon Dr Vinay Samuel continues his weekly diary in the Church of England Newspaper from that city

Nearly 11 million people of the sprawling city of Bangalore were placed under complete lockdown from 14 July for at least 10 days, but very likely longer. More than 2,000 new positive cases were reported every day last week and the number of deaths increased daily. The State government was forced to clampdown after just one week of ending the lockdown. A deep sense of helplessness affects everyone. You can hear it in the words of the politicians, bureaucrats and even medical professionals.

Families we helped in April and May are returning to us for provision of groceries again. There is no work for them and no income. We have resumed providing monthly packets for 100 families and, if funds come, in we will increase it to 300. We sheltered four homeless elderly people last week. We are resuming providing an evening meal to the homeless elderly who get one meal in the morning at a Hindu temple that serves food provided by the Government. We hope to increase the number of meals to a 100 by the end of this week.

We have seen young children return to the Bangalore East Railway Station.Children running away from home, young women escaping a violent spouse, and elderly homeless have found temporary shelter on the railway platforms for many years. The station is less than a mile away from our facility and our social workers visit it frequently to provide medical and social care.

Last week we rescued two young boys aged seven and nine who were about to be trafficked. Last July Bangalore was described as a hub of human trafficking by South India’s most trusted newspaper The Hindu. Some 25 per cent of the victims of human trafficking are children, mostly girls.

Our work with street children began 45 years ago. Our children’s home started with the rescue of a 14-year-old girl about to be sold to sex traffickers. We have a huge child trafficking problem in India where a child is trafficked every eight minutes.The current situation makes children from the poorest homes very vulnerable. We recognise that we need to be much more vigilant and work closely with the police.

A quarter of the 500 children in our High School have no access to a tablet, laptop, or even a smart phone. We started our online classes on 13 Julyand had provided a computer centre for children who have no access even to the internet. The lockdown means that they cannot come to the centres. We are hoping that we can get permission for these children to use the centre for two hours each day. Every precaution is taken to keep them safe. It is likely that schools will start only in September.

Our pastoral team continues to be in touch with several hundred people every week. People are open to a call to hear a scripture passage read and a prayer. The increasing sense of helplessness as there appear to be no prospects of change soon makes it difficult to give hope to people.

Newspaper and television reports continually focus on the rising numbers of infections, the shortage of hospital beds, and the number of deaths due to ambulances not reaching those in need for several hours. These increase the sense of helplessness among all of us. Hope struggles to survive in the soil of helplessness. We continually seek inner strengthening from our Lord even as we ask for protection from the virus.

Helplessness, homelessness and a struggle for hope

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