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COVID-19 lockdown: India's lone woman Paralympic medalist to feed daily wagers

By Pti
COVID-19 lockdown: Indias lone woman Paralympic medalist to feed daily wagers

Chandigarh, April 2: Decorated para athlete and India's lone woman Paralympic medalist Deepa Malik along with her daughter Devika has launched an initiative to provide cooked food to daily wagers in different cities across the country amid the ongoing lockdown.

As part of the initiative, aptly named 'Happy Janta Kitchen’, the duo has been feeding daily wagers in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur will soon start operations in Amethi and Noida.

Their NGO Wheeling Happiness foundation is actively involved in the initiative.

In Kanpur, we have partnered with NGO Shiv Shakti Kripa Foundation to support daily wagers and essential workers who don’t have sufficient resources due to the nationwide lockdown, Deepa told PTI over phone on Thursday.

"We distribute a minimum of 100 food packets daily with the help of authorities in Kanpur under the banner of Happy Janta Kitchen," said the Khel Ratna awardee.

Asked why they chose Kanpur to begin with, she said, “We felt there are many daily wagers there…”

“We have identified volunteers who live in places where the food is to be distributed, so that they won't have to travel. Also, we are taking the help of local authorities so that we can maintain the guidelines issued by the government as well as local authorities,” said Deepa.

“We are also identifying locals (in Kanpur) who are doing good work of feeding daily wagers during this crisis and we are sending funds to them,” she said.

The mother-daughter duo will soon begin distributing food in Amethi and Noida as well with the help of field volunteers. “We are in the process of shortlisting more ground workers in some other cities as well and are tying up with different NGOs to expand this initiative,” said the 49-year-old who won a silver in shot put at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

Deepa, who is the President of the Paralympic Committee of India had on March 12 decided to put on hold all national and state championships till April 15, keeping in mind the central government’s directions to avoid large gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Padma Shri recipient further said that she had donated Rs 5.70 lakh earned as corporate fees from various sessions addressed by her towards the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, much before the PM-CARES Fund was announced.

While some people may experience depression and anxiety due to the lockdown, it is imperative to stay positive in this hour of crisis, said Deepa, who was bedridden for more than a year and uses a wheelchair to move around.

A paraplegic, paralysed from waist down, Deepa was consigned to the wheelchair 17 years ago after being operated for a spinal tumour. She underwent 31 surgeries, which was healed after 183 stitches between her waist and legs.

“It’s natural to think that we can’t help others if there is a restriction on our movement. But that is not the case, if you have the will, you will find a way… When I was bedridden, it was my positive attitude and zest for doing something in life that kept me motivated,” said the mother of two.

“These days I am sharing updates on mental health on my social media accounts. When people tell me that they are feeling low, I tell them to stay positive. I tell them that I was bedridden for 14 months in 1999 and underwent one surgery after another. I was gripped with fear of death, but I chose life, I chose positivity,” she added.

“Had I given up on hope and not stayed positive in that situation, how would I have got 23 international medals… how would I have bagged a Paralympic medal for my country. These times too will pass and we need to motivate each other,” she said further.

Meanwhile, Devika said their NGO Wheeling Happiness foundation promotes inclusion, disability sports, raises funds for women and people with disabilities and promotes better access and equality for those facing physical, emotional and social challenges.

The foundation has helped over 50 persons with disabilities to become sportspersons, and provided artificial limbs and assistive devices to over 500 beneficiaries, said Devika, winner of UN Women Transforming India Award who does a lot of work in rural areas for the underprivileged.

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Story first published: Thursday, April 2, 2020, 17:23 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 2, 2020
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