Prayas is a social work demonstration project of the Criminology and Criminal Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, established in 1990. Prayas’s focus is on service delivery, networking, training, research and documentation, and policy change with respect to the custodial/institutional rights and rehabilitation of socio-economically vulnerable individuals and groups.
For the past 30 years, Prayas has been working with the persons entangled in the criminal justice system towards their rehabilitation, helping them become independent so that they could lead a peaceful life. Youth and female clients (Client is a term used in social work practice for beneficiary or the person with whom the social worker works with) are helped through emergency assistance, medical help, shelter, legal aid and guidance, vocational training, and placement in the NGO sector.
Some months back, in a night shelter in Thane district, we had arranged shelter for four youth. While staying in this temporary shelter, we arranged for their food, travel expenses, and stipend for placement in the NGO sector. Out of these four youth, two are from Bihar and their cases are going on in court; they have been provided advocates through the District Legal Services Authority. They have completed the three-month nursing training through the Family Planning Association of India and have also worked as caretakers for ailing patients. One of them had gone back to his village last month and returned back with his brother seeking employment and we got him admission in the same night shelter.
The third youth was staying in the house of his married sister after the demise of his parents. He was imparted wireman training and on completion of the course, he worked for few months as a wireman. He returned back to Prayas after leaving his job due to the harassment by his past friends with the criminal background. He is on the lookout for a new job and his stay arrangements have been made in the night shelter.
The fourth youth is a resident of Bhiwandi and has no relatives in Mumbai. He was housed in the prison from where he was released on bail six months ago with the help of Prayas. Through Prayas, he too staying in the night shelter and undergoing training through an NGO called Bright Futures.
Due to the lockdown declared from 22nd March, 2020, many people are unable to get out of their homes and have thus been rendered without employment. The present situation has severely affected homeless people. An atmosphere of fear prevails. The hotels are closed and there is no facility for food. Since many people were unaware of this impending situation, their rations have got over. These youth are worried about what is in store for them. In such a scenario, a serious question has arisen before them. They want to go back to their native village but since the trains have been cancelled, they are unable to go.
Amidst all this, on 27th March, 2020, the Municipal Corporation helped about 25 people get admitted them into the night shelter. These people included those into begging, people living on the streets, hamals (porters), daily wage labourers, etc. Thanks to the municipal corporation authorities, these people are now safe and cared for.
But considering the present circumstances, any person would be scared and questions could arise in their minds as to whether these people are infected by the Corona virus. What will happen if we get infected? But the youth who has undergone the nursing training began helping the shelter home staff in taking care of the newly admitted persons. He took the lead in explaining to the other youth their need for shelter. Later, the other two youth made stay arrangements of the people in the different rooms, and explained to the other residents their responsibilities. They made arrangements for food for the newly admitted residents.
Next day in the morning, the medical team of the Municipal Corporation visited the shelter and conducted a medical examination of all the residents. Along with the medical team, these youth helped in spreading awareness about the Corona Virus disease and the precautions to be taken, and they distributed masks and sanitizers to everyone.
Presently, these youth are involved in assisting the shelter home staff with regard to making arrangements for the bathing, drinking water, breakfast, lunch etc. The number of residents in the shelter has increased to 90 and presently, three staff members from the shelter home are engaged full time in attending to the needs of the residents. In such a situation, the condition of the shelter facility has become stressful, as there is shortage of facilities like food, water, clothing, etc. The shelter home staff has to take care of themselves besides attending to the needs of the inmates.
These youth, who were once accused of offending behavior, are today risking their lives and extending a helping hand to others. They have shown the way for others…We request citizens to assist us in our efforts by extending their hand.
Prayas has been working for the last 30 years to create pathways for the rehabilitation of persons in prison and protective custody. Do support Prayas to reach out to maximum people with the support in the times of COVID 19 crises https://tiss.edu/prayas_donate/
- By Chandrakant Shinde, Coordinator, Male Youth Rehabilitation, Prayas
- Translation by Devayani Tumma, Sr. Social Worker, Research and Documentation, Prayas