A college internship programme launched in 2009 has turned out to be a blessing for the people in distress due to job loss during this coronavirus pandemic. The Sarthak Covid-19 fellowship under the Bharat Calling initiative has been supporting the young activists who are helping the poor in the rural areas across six states. 

“During this pandemic our effort was to be in touch with the youth regularly. We found many people on the highway who were leaving our area, and also people in our neighbourhood were in distress. We found 30 young volunteers who were working on different issues and launched Sarthak fellowship.  We are mentoring them, giving them some financial incentives and providing an outreach platform.”

– Sandeep Mehto, Founder of Bharat Calling

There are 30 Sarthak Fellows who have been helping people in the rural areas across six states of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam under mentorship from Bharat Calling. The Sarthak fellows are serving the needy from different sections of the society including the elderly, migrant labourers, members of the transgender community and poor villagers. 

“One of our Sarthak Fellows, Sweta from Madhya Pradesh, noticed that around 150 families were in a tough situation. With the help of Goonj we managed to get funding for them. Another volunteer Nazia is a clinical psychologist. But she did not know how to reach out to people. Through this platform she is counselling people. There are other volunteers who are going to the communities, identifying their problems and addressing the issue. The volunteers are sharing their experience and supporting each other,” says Sandeep the mentor and social entrepreneur. 

The pandemic is not going to end soon and the marginalized people in rural areas will continue to suffer due to loss of job and livelihood. The Bharat calling has a long-term vision to deal with the post COVID-19 scenario. 

“It’s important to decentralize. The institutions in villages should get more power and have a say in decision making. Now decision-making power is with the District Administration. We may have to stay with this pandemic for a long time. I have identified six projects. We would like to establish 6-7 units in villages like an essential oil extraction unit. Presently rose flowers are not being used, we can use that to extract oil. We would like to focus on entrepreneurship programmes where we can prepare more professionals to deal with such pandemic,” elaborates Sandeep.

Bharat Calling was started as a part of an internship program in 2009 by TISS social entrepreneurship students. It has been focusing on career counselling, mentorship and entrepreneurship for the rural youth.