Want to help citizens of rural India in COVID pandemic? Here’s a verified directory of rural initiatives

The Rural Response Tracker is a volunteer-led effort with verified details of various rural initiatives on medical supplies, food, livelihoods, vaccination, mental health and funeral services clubbed both state-wise and category-wise.

Nidhi Jamwal
Deputy Managing Editor| Updated: May 10th, 2021

The Rural Response Tracker is a volunteer-led effort with verified details of various rural initiatives

Arvind Chiraniya and Amit Srivastava were the best of friends in school. For four years, during schooling in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, they sat side by side on the same bench, shared their tiffin and class notes, played pranks and prepared various models for school projects.

Last month, 42-year-old Chiraniya, who now lives in Bengaluru, Karnataka, lost his childhood buddy Srivastava, a resident of Gurgaon in Haryana, to COVID-19.

“It came as a shock. To lose a childhood friend who is of your age to the virus… This pandemic has affected each of us in some way or the other. Amit’s death made me want to do my bit to help others in these difficult times,” Chiraniya told Gaon Connection

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Chiraniya, an alumnus of IIT Madras with a PhD from the United States, now spends a couple of hours every day verifying leads for COVID19 help in rural India. He is an expert on logistics and operational research, and is one of the 102 volunteers who have signed up for an initiative — Rural Response Tracker — a verified directory of non-profits, voluntary organisations and individuals, who are helping rural residents access help during the pandemic — be it oxygen supply, cooked meals, information on vaccination or financial support. 

The Rural Response Tracker is a verified directory of non-profits, voluntary organisations and individuals, who are helping rural residents access help during the pandemic.

The brain behind this new initiative is Agami, a Bengaluru-based group of lawyers that works to advance ideas that serve justice. “We are lawyers who study how common citizens relate to the existing system of law and justice, and how we can radically increase innovation and change-making in the systems of law and justice,” Sachin Malhan, co-founder of Agami, told Gaon Connection.

“COVID-19 has hit all of us bad. A fortnight ago, we decided to pause a bit — for two to three weeks — and use our strength of grassroots’ linkages to help people living in rural India access help during the pandemic,” Malhan said. 

“Our core skill at Agami is to use our network to identify bright spots, and that is what we are trying to do through the Rural Response Tracker, which is a verified directory of over 240 rural initiatives that are active now,” explained Agami.  

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As the name suggests, the Rural Response Tracker (https://ruralindia.help) is a volunteer-led effort that uses existing public information, surveys, phone calls and relationships to aggregate many local responses to COVID19. The purpose of this initiative is to empower anybody, particularly those in cities, to find and support rural COVID responses.

The Rural Response Tracker has details of various rural initiatives clubbed both state-wise and category-wise. The various categories include medical supplies, food, beds, livelihoods, vaccination, mental health and funeral services. 

Under the category of states, details of various rural initiatives in a particular region are listed. For instance, Uttar Pradesh (UP) has 23 initiatives. Right To Walk Foundation in Noida (with a presence in 11 districts of UP) is looking to procure 100 oxygen concentrators and pre-made ration kits. Anyone who wishes to donate or help this foundation can reach out, as both its contact number and Google map location are provided.

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“The idea behind this Rural Response Tracker is that our volunteers verify these organisations/individuals by doing a background check and calling up and finding more before adding their details on the website,” explained Malhan. “Those who are keen to help people in rural India can look up the tracker and see what appeals to them. They can call up the contact numbers and verify the needs themselves,” he added.

NS Sekar, COO (chief operation officer) of Bengaluru-based Quinbay, and his 15-year-old daughter NS Pradnya Rajalakshmi, spend a couple of hours every day verifying these leads of rural initiatives and keying in verified details on the tracker. “The COVID situation is getting worse and we are locked up inside our homes feeling helpless as we cannot do much. Last week, my daughter asked me — Appa, what can we do to help others?” Sekhar told Gaon Connection

NS Sekar, COO of Bengaluru-based Quinbay, and his 15-year-old daughter NS Pradnya Rajalakshmi, spend a couple of hours every day verifying the leads of rural initiatives.

It is then that he came across a call for volunteers to join the Rural Response Tracker initiative. “Both my daughter and I signed up for it, attended an orientation and now spend some hours every day verifying the leads and updating information on the tracker. My daughter spends an hour a day while I finish my office work and devote two hours — between 9 pm and 11 pm — to verify,” said Sekhar.

“Apart from doing a background check on rural initiatives, my daughter and I also look for information about initiatives on Facebook or other social media sites and call up to verify,” he added.

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According to Malhan, what the tracker does is provide a verified list of hundreds of initiatives to people who cannot step out of their homes but want to help in one way or the other. “We verify NGOs, initiatives and other leads at our end, but we also encourage people to do more verification by picking up the phone and calling before making any donation. Every day, we add 50-70 more initiatives to our tracker,” he informed.

Chiraniya, a native of Hajipur in Bihar, got associated with this initiative on May 5 through a post on LinkedIn. “The first day, I verified about 160 leads that focussed on rural India and marginalised communities. Soon, I realised we need some organising at our end and that is where I used my professional knowledge of logistics and operational research to create different groups, add links and enroll more volunteers,” he said.

Malhan said that this voluntary effort is open for collaboration so that more and more people/organisations can join it and take things forward. 

For details or donation, please visit: https://ruralindia.help 

If you wish to volunteer, email: Covid@agami.in or fill up this volunteer form: https://docs.google.com/forms/u/1/d/e/1FAIpQLSdGvxN2rwO_sQXeYCYHpdf_T8F2KpkM0b_Zy9MrQGVA0bgvkA/viewform?usp=send_form 

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