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How crowdfunding is aiding India's poor amid COVID-19 crisis

Charu Kartikeya New Delhi
May 1, 2020

Amid a nationwide lockdown that has left millions of poor laborers unable to fulfill their basic needs, several good Samaritans and organizations have turned to crowdfunding to help those who are struggling. 

How crowdfunding is helping India's poor in the age of COVID-19
Image: Reuters/R. de Chowdhuri

India's nationwide lockdown, announced over a month ago, immediately had a devastating impact on the millions of migrant workers scattered across the country. With their livelihoods gone, many set out to return to their home states, even if it meant walking hundreds of kilometers without any access to transportation.  

The sight of these poor migrant workers desperately marching along the national highways forced both the government and society at large to face the tragedy at hand. Buses were arranged to help many people return to their home states, but many others were not able to go home and instead had to stay in makeshift shelters. 

Government efforts to house and feed them have so far been inadequate because of the number of people in need, but individuals, charities and NGOs have stepped up to contribute in their own way. 

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According to data from the federal government to the Supreme Court earlier this month, non-governmental organizations were running at least 1,625 more relief camps than the government. Apart from established NGOs, many groups and individuals who were new to charity also stepped in to help out.

Some have started community kitchens, where they cook hot food to be sent to hundreds of starving poor, while others distribute dry milk powder for children, sanitary napkins and other essentials to those in need. 

The groups also have different approaches to funding. Those who can afford to are spending out of their own pockets, while others seek contributions from friends and family. However, more so than any other method of fundraising, crowdfunding has made one of the biggest impacts, as it allows good Samaritans to solicit donations beyond their immediate network. 

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How crowdfunding works

One of those successful crowdfunding campaigns was started by Equivi – a new, charitable group in Mumbai. Equivi was formed by a group of young filmmakers who wanted to take up the challenge of providing two weeks' worth of food rations, masks, soap and sanitary napkins to the families of over 500 migrant workers in Mumbai. 

The group estimated that the project would cost about 500,000 rupees (€6,000, $6,600). To raise that amount, they turned to the crowdfunding platform, Milaap.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdown: Is India flattening the COVID-19 curve?

"We thought that this is a crisis that requires large-scale collaboration, and a crowdfunding platform like Milaap is able to help us reach people beyond our immediate network," an Equivi member told DW. "This is convenient for potential donors too, as it helps people get to know the initiative with just one page."

Equivi has been able to raise more than 300,000 rupees through the platform so far, with the help of contributions from hundreds of donors. The group is also trying to set up its own website to publish the stories of those who have been assisted by the campaign. 

Big money involved

Milaap's CEO Mayukh Choudhury told DW that the platform has helped provide several campaigns more than 9 billion rupees since he started the company in 2010. Right now, there are over 1,100 campaigns on the platform devoted to COVID-19, which have been able to collectively raise over 750 million rupees for the cause so far, Mayukh added.

Crowdfunding helps those who want to do their bit for society, but who are not in a position to run campaigns on their own. Apart from Milaap, there are several other similar platforms and in the present crisis, they have all become an important tool for people to help those who have been most affected.  

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