As the COVID-19 lockdown left many people without enough money to even buy food, in the Indian state of Telangana, a Hyderabad man came to the rescue of the poor in his neighbourhood. Ramu Dosapati is being called a COVID-19 hero for setting up a rice ATM (Automated Teller Machine) to provide rice and other supplies to those who cannot afford food.
According to local news reports shared by Indian social media users this week, Dosapati set up a machine that works round the clock. Any person who has no money to buy the next meal can reach his residence in Lal Bahadur Nagar to get a ration kit comprising rice and few other groceries.
"Hyderabad has over one crore population, and I want to see that no one sleeps hungry,” Dosapati said, according to a report by Indian news agency, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).
Dosapati has been distributing ration kits among the needy every day, for the last 170 days. A report said that men and women would queue up in front of his apartment to collect rice.
The man, who works as a Human Resources manager at a software firm, has so far managed to help 15,000 families, spending about Rs 5lakh (Dh24,902) from his own pocket.
It all started in April when Dosapati heard about a watchwoman who bought chicken worth Rs2,000 (Dh99) during the lockdown for distribution among migrant labourers who were going hungry.
“I thought when a watchwoman drawing a meager salary of Rs6,000 (Dh298) can do this, why should an HR manager earning Rs1.5 lakh (Dh7,470) per month sit at home and bother only about his family?”
He withdrew some money from his account, and Provident Fund, and set up the Rice ATM on April 13. Initially, Dosapati went around distributing the kits among the migrant workers. He used to go around with ration kits and distribute them among families who were starving.
The kits contain not just rice, but also essential commodities like rice, edible oil, pulses, chilli powder, turmeric, sugar, and tea. One kit lasts a family of four for five days.
The kit is for people like private school teachers, hotel workers, delivery boys, drivers, and private sector employees who have not been receiving their salaries during the pandemic, or have lost their jobs or are unemployed.
For impoverished families in which members tested positive for COVID-19, Dosapati provides a one-month kit. Women deserted by their husbands and having to take care of children with no source of income are also receiving this kit.
This month, inspired by him, more people started to come forward and make contributions.
He added: “I advised those who came to me, to start similar work in their own neighbourhoods. There is a lot to do in every area because there are people who cover 15-20 km distance to come to our ATM."
After hearing about his initiative, some youngsters volunteered to help him in packaging the ration kits. Dosapati ensured that his philanthropic initiative is environmently friendly, too. Instead of using single-use plastic, Dosapati is using reusable cloth bags for the packing.