June 22, Bangalore – Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, one of India’s leading FMCG companies, though headquartered in Bangalore has seen its employees across the country extend a helping hand to people amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when the world is facing one of the worst crisis, we often get to hear stories of people struggling to come to terms with what is being called ‘the new normal’.
However, there are a select few that are going out of their way to extend a helping hand and making on ground contributions in their limited capacity, all in an effort to help others sail through these trying times.
These stories of HCCB employees is a testament of just that.
One for the saviors in white!
With the COVID-19 cases rising, hospitals needed as many hands as would help. Rajesh Bhande, who works as a forklift operator in Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, at its Pirangut based factory near Pune, was already eager to contribute. He reached out to his former employer – a local hospital in Pune – enquiring if he could volunteer, for he had earlier worked in the health sector. The hospital staff said yes. Could he make masks, for visitors and those in the neighbourhood, they enquired? Rajesh immediately signed up. Reminisces Rajesh, “it was such a joy to see my wife and son take turns to make cloth face masks on a sewing machine at home. Shortly we were being able to make 50 masks a day.” For Rajesh, it was his way of contributing to the cause of combating the outbreak of COVID-19. As he sums up, “I feel proud and privileged to be able to do my part especially for those who are putting their own lives on the line.”
Feeding the hungry
Hunger was undoubtedly the biggest bane that the vulnerable were fighting for. Spurred by their plight, Suraj Das, high-speed line Operator in the HCCB factory at Raninagar near Siliguri, and a few friends, started with small sums from their own pocket. Later they tapped into crowdfunding, to feed many more. Suraj and friends would make packets of essential groceries and get on to their bikes to distribute them. With support pouring in from others, they continued to serve over 480 families throughout the lockdown. Calling his experience as fulfilling, Suraj says, “the lockdown has taught us to be there for each other and take care.”
The lockdown also meant complete ban on the entry of part time helps inside residential complexes. Some residents were concerned about how they would manage daily household chores. Some were worried about the availability of essential food and grocery items. And, some were frowning about overall cleanliness of the locality. But very few like Anoop Sharma spared some thoughts about how these daily wage earners would feed their family. After all, they live off what they earn each day. Just a simple thought that their children could go to bed empty-stomach, Anoop reached out to these neglected grief-stricken families to offer them meals just outside his complex, ‘Parn Kuti’ near Gandhi Nagar Police Station in Bhopal. He did not wait for any help from anywhere. He just put his hand in his pocket. He would take packets of freshly prepared food outside his residential complex and offer them to the sweepers and gardeners living in his neighbourhood. Initially only a couple of daily wage earners came but as the word spread 3 to 4 other laborers also started collecting the meals. Recalling those days, Anoop describes an incident with a lump in his throat, “One day, when we offered a packet of meal to a laborer, he immediately responded with tears in his eyes that my children are very hungry, and they will be delighted to see this meal.”
What is more heartening is that Anoop’s wife, Kanta was in the eighth month of pregnancy when the lockdown was announced. She continued to prepare meals for 5 to 6 daily wage labourers every day during the entire 21 day of the first phase of the lockdown. The good news is that Anoop and Kanta have recently been blessed with their second child, a baby girl. Appreciating her support Anoop says, “Kanta prepared food willingly and never complained of any uneasiness.” When asked to comment on his charitable work, the unassuming Anoop bends his head downwards and says with all humility, “In times like this nothing is enough for these underprivileged people who serve us throughout the year.” He goes on to add, “I feel it’s our duty to help these people who remain grossly neglected.” Anoop works as a Line Fitter in the factory of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, at Nimach in Bhopal.
The story of Janardhana Rao, store executive at the HCCB factory in Ameenpur, is equally humbling. Touched by the predicament of unemployed daily wage earners, he and a few colleagues, started preparing and serving freshly cooked food. Gradually, more and more people from his apartment joined. Some even made biryani and sambar rice to feed the hungry.
Devendra Divekar, knows he is lucky. All three meals of the day for his family, are a certainty. But what kept rankling in his head was that there were several who were forced to skip at least two meals of the day. They were stranded in the lockdown. “I wanted to do my bit”, says Devendra. He started small with his own money. His family supported him in supplying essential food items such as rice, dal, poha and cooking oil to the people nearby. His gesture inspired many of his friends and their families to come forward. In the ensuing period, they also helped people with ration cards to procure the essentials through the government run channels. Soon, they had taken care of 1,000 families.
In Hyderabad, Shiva Shankar, a part of the extended sales team deployed by HCCB, reached out to over 350 families with essentials. The food packet that he would distribute included rice, oil, dal, tomato, onion and chilies. On days, he would also cook and feed families, when distributing food packets wasn’t feasible. He had soon fed over 2,000 individuals. “It just takes a little heart and few like-minded people to serve the needy,” says Shiv Shankar.
Not all needing help during the lockdown are necessarily poor. Some are just caught in the circumstances. One can’t just expect the government to reach out to all. It is here that Rahul Ligade, AVP, Business Shared Services at HCCB and Jayant Patel, National Manager, at HCCB, took the lead. They came forward to serve food to the house keepers and security staff in their respective housing societies. The staff were mostly on duty and could not go home. Rahul and Jayant mobilized resources and served meals, fruits, beverages and snacks to all of them for the entire period of the lockdown.
Soni Yadav, a part of the Logistics team at HCCB, started serving refreshments like tea, coffee, Coke, biscuits among security and administrative officials who were on patrol. Her rationale, “they protect us by maintaining law & order and I am happy to bring smiles to their faces.” Just like Soni, D. Suresh, Quality Assurance Executive at the HCCB factory in Nemam, near Chennai, also paid his tribute to the police officials by buying and sharing all or any of HCCB’s products. He also bought vegetables and fruits directly from farmers and distributed them among the 150 families near his community. “We need to step in and help our community as much as possible during these hard times,” avers Suresh.
Guarding with grit
He showed exemplary strength in vulnerability. That panic would have scared most, but not Dharmveer Kumar Mahto, the security head at HCCB’s Goa factory. In drills that denoted a lot of practice, he was right there attending to one of the drivers of a third-party vehicle, who was running high fever. A coronavirus infection could be one of the possibilities. The driver was not from Goa. In fact, it was his maiden visit to the city. Losing no time, Dharmveer immediately took the driver to a local dispensary in the factory ambulance. He had all the preventive measures taken for himself, but the sheer thought of being with a potentially infected, could be bothering. The doctors at the dispensary directed Dharmveer to take the driver to a Covid scanning center at VASCO. Reflecting on the events of the day, Dharmveer says, “I just wanted to do everything I could to save him and protect others.” As a responsible citizen, he then got himself quarantined and deputed two of his associates to continuously monitor the well-being of the driver. The driver was soon discharged from the hospital. He was not infected by the corona virus. But Dharmveer had done his duty!
No doubt, these selfless souls of HCCB, define Indianness. They seek meaning for life beyond the daily chores.
City Today News