Indian Express Stories of Strength

Facebook and The Indian Express bring you a series on those at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic. From healthcare workers to government officials to innovators — a look at their day at work, their struggles and challenges.

‘They are just like me’: Cart puller spends life savings to serve the hungry

“Many find it hard to manage food during lockdown. My income is less. I am a poor man. But I shall try my best to donate some more.”

May 5, 2020 1:07:37 pm

AGARTALA: “Like many others, I was worried about getting by during the coronavirus lockdown. I saw people taking supplies from donors. That’s when I thought of standing with daily wagers and labourers.”

Across India there are many who are going out of their way to help those suffering because of the unprecedented turn of events. But then Goutam Das is not among the privileged. The 51-year-old is a daily wager too, pulling a cart to sustain himself. So when he says he decided to spend his savings and donate something, it carries a lot more weight. In fact, this /thelawalla’/ from Tripura has spent nearly all his savings donating food for the poor.

Das lives alone in a tiny mud house at Sadhutilla village close to Agartala city. His wife passed away years back and his children live separately. That gives him a little bit of wriggle space when it comes to his finances. With the Rs 200 or so he would earn daily, Das had managed to save about Rs 20,000 by the time the lockdown was announced.

It was the panic and hunger he saw around him that prompted him to start serving the needy. So far he has spent about Rs 8,000 buying rice and pulses. He then packs them and starts distributing it among the needy using his cart. No selfies, no social media posts, he just goes around helping those who fear for their next meal.

“I have donated some rice and daal to poor people like me. I have tried to stand beside workers and labourers, being one myself,” he tells indianexpress.com, adding how he just wanted to help within his “small capacity”.

With rice and ‘/daal/’ distributed to 160 families by the first week of April, Das is aiming to do more as the lockdown has been extended. “Many find it hard to manage food during lockdown. My income is less. I am a poor man. But I shall try my best to donate some more,” he says.

Goutam started his work soon after Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb asked people of the state to donate food and essential supplies for the poor in their respective localities and do the holy work of ‘/annadaan’/ (feeding the needy). Das wasn’t among the businessmen and industrialists Deb urged to help others, but he’s still doing his holy work of feeding the needy.

Also in this series: In Kerala district, a low-tech solution that offers high success rates on keeping tab of patients