With the state reeling under a crippling drought, the Jain community in Mumbai has come forward to do its bit, not just for people, but for the cattle too. Under the banner of its trust Samast Mahajan, the community has gone beyond donating money, and is working in villages to desilt water bodies and build cattle sheds.
Fourteen years ago, Girish Shah, the managing trustee of the group, initiated the idea of preserving animals by building cattle sheds. Giving it a bigger shape in the following years, the trust has extended its work to 60 drought-affected villages.
A team of 60 volunteers are currently carrying out work for water preservation in Beed district’s Ambejogai taluka. “We are desilting ponds, lakes and other small water bodies in the affected villages. Removal of silt is being done with the help of backhoe machines, which will help in higher water percolation,” says Shah.
The trust has till now received about Rs 10 crore in donation, says Shah. The encouragement they got from the community has been of great significance in providing relief to troubled people, Shah says. An estimate shows that 27,723 villages in 123 talukas of 16 districts in Maharashtra have been affected by drought this year. With little or no water reserves in these areas, villagers are compelled to walk great distances to fetch as little as a bucket of water. Also, points out Shah, water tankers are not of much help as a lot of time is wasted in procuring water from the source.
The group’s YouTube channel has videos of their desilting work carried out in the state besides showcasing the need for cattle sheds.
The organisation has also built over 350 animal shelters in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It boasts of providing latest scientific techniques at these shelters as well as animal hospitals. ‘Chabutras’ or octagonal towers with water and food have been built to provide relief to birds from the scorching sun.
When Maharashtra was reeling under drought in 2013, the group invited around 3,000 donors in Mumbai. It also staged a play “Bhamasha”, based on the dismal situation in the state, to appeal to the donors to help over 6,000 villages across 13 districts in Maharashtra. Several of these villages have been urged to become self reliant by volunteering in the relief work.
When Uttarakhand and Kashmir were hit by torrential rains and floods, and Nepal was rocked by a devastating earthquake, the community distributed food supplies along with warm clothes. In addition, several hospitals were provided medicines for the affected people. “We walked an extra mile by adopting villages and rehabilitating them, providing them education and giving them job opportunities,” informs Shah.