Diabetes, Blood pressure, anemia! Unfortunately these ailments created by stress and lack of proper nutrition and care require expensive medication. Doctors suggest vegetables and fruits, whole grains and iron rich foods and tonics. Anyone who has been part of the lockdown in Pune knows that it was impossible to get vegetables and fruits for love or for money. But imagine if you had no money, had to work in a high risk environment like waste management and ensure your daily medicine shots as well. Meet Anjali Subhash Shinde, a SWaCH waste picker who suffers from diabetes, BP and anemia. “We hear that those with health issues are most vulnerable to the COVID infection, but when you are part of an essential service network, you cannot sit at home. You go out there, do your bit, and take care to wash and clean and take your medications so you can manage your health. As always, I had just enough money to buy 15 days of medicines when the lockdown struck. In normal times I make about Rs.6000 a month which is just about enough to pay for my medication. My husband, my son, my mother – all are supportive and willing to lend a helping hand. But these were not normal times”, she says, as she talks about the bitter pill she had to swallow during the pandemic.
With no recycling and scrap sales at a standstill, it was impossible to get any money during the lockdown. Once she exhausted her 15 day medicine supplies, she was at a loss as to where her essential medicines would come from. To make matters worse, she worried herself sick, literally, and lost consciousness a couple of times. The doctors just prescribed more medication as her BP had sky rocketed and her blood sugar levels were unstable. “Add the doctor’s fees and the run-around charges in these lockdown times, and the very worry that I was supposed to avoid came up doubly strong. Now I have to find ways to pay to hear that I must eat more vegetables and good food! Where do we get the good food? I have not seen any green vegetables on my plate since the lockdown began. Do we focus on survival or ‘good food’?” she asks.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and when others offered to buy the medication for which she could pay later, she gratefully accepted their help. “I am a middle aged person who owes money to her mother, her sons and others. I should be looking after my elders and supporting my sons as they look after their families, but I need their help to survive. We are essentially recycling agents, and often get told that we are doing good work, but what does all that mean when our very survival is at stake? The government should find a way to make all these medicines easily and inexpensively accessible to us. We should not be running pillar to post wondering how to source the medicines we need for our very survival.”
Anjali is still at work and servicing all the homes and properties she has for years. Some citizens have been helpful and the organisation has also helped with PPE, some rations etc., she admits gratefully. To help her and others who cannot afford to stay at home despite their debilitating pre-existing health conditions, please donate generously.