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This page details our response to the pandemic since March 2020.

We’ve collaborated with multiple stakeholders to dynamically respond to people’s changing needs. We’ve consciously adopted a community-led approach throughout to ensure that people’s dignity and security are upheld.

None of this work would have been possible without the support of multiple partners, well-wishers, networks, organisations, administrative authorities and the support of the people. We thank everyone for their trust and commitment to people’s rights.

Responding holistically to the pandemic first wave

An overview of relief efforts

In mid-March 2020, with the spread of COVID-19, we conducted a rapid assessment across 34 communities in 4 cities of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The findings on people’s access to food and work were alarming. It informed our relief work and gave us the edge in planning for resources and outreach to people in the following days.

We launched the campaign Together We Can: Spread Love not Corona and raised INR 6,00,00,000 ensuring the poorest in the city didn’t suffer extreme hunger as their sources of earning came to an end.

From March–August, we provided rations to 45,000+ households and reached out to 2,25,000+ people in the MMR, Nashik and Guwahati. We provided 780,000+ cooked meals to migrant workers and frontline workers. As part of the Jeevan Rath network of 50+ organisations we distributed 17,000+ essential item kits and facilitated travel arrangements for 1,000+ migrant workers on their way home in MMR, Nagpur and Nashik.

Our relief efforts in MMR have been mapped on GIS and maps.

We documented our efforts, publishing atleast one blog per week since March, which described our relief and advocacy efforts and the evolving situation:

  • Week 1: Growing vulnerabilities, lockdown and building solidarities (in English and Hindi)
  • Week 2: Together We Can: Spread Love Not Corona (in English and Hindi)
  • Week 3: Addressing varied needs with emergency relief services (in English and Hindi)
  • Week 4: A month into relief efforts (in English and Hindi)
  • Week 5: Taking ahead relief efforts during COVID-19 (in English and Hindi)
  • Week 6: Growing demands, limited relief supply (in English and Hindi)
  • YUVA’s relief efforts during COVID-19: An overview (in English and Hindi)

Our TwitterInstagramFacebook, and YouTube pages also shared regular updates.

Our efforts received extensive media coverage on Hindustan TimesNDTVThe HinduFirstpostNews18Mumbai MirrorMoneylifeLivemintThe WireCitizen MattersLoksattaJanadesh NewsAawaz MaharashtrachaThe Free Press JournalThe Better IndiaConde Nast Traveller and other publications. Our work was profiled in detail in The Daily Eye.


We conducted a rapid situation analysis of the urban poor in 4 cities of the MMR from 18-22 March (detailed here in English and Hindi) and this informed our relief strategy. Ongoing relief, advocacy and an understanding of the evolving on-ground situation helped us conduct much needed research on the situation.

We published an interim report in June 2020, Access to Entitlements and Relief among the Urban Poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region during COVID-19, on people’s access to entitlements and government relief, based on a survey of 7,515 households. You can also read the summary in Marathi.

The final report, published in August 2020, Living with Multiple Vulnerabilities: Impact of COVID-19 on the Urban Poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region contained detailed findings based on data from 39,562 respondents in 10 cities of the MMR along with recommendations for decision makers at the local, state and national levels. Read the summary in Marathi.

Our blog series COVID-19 Lockdown and Resilience: Narratives from the  Ground placed the spotlight on experiences of the urban poor during the lockdown.

Towards rehabiliation: Facilitating Legal Entitlements

To build the resilience of communities, uphold their dignity, and ensure that duty-bearers are fulfilling their obligations to people, a rights-based approach is critical. Within the context of people’s access to rights, empowering marginalised groups with rights awareness, helping them develop and strengthen community leadership, and helping them access legal entitlements (IDs) which help them claim their rights in the city is critical.

Our efforts on furthering access to entitlements and welfare from July to September 2020 led to:

  • INR 60,000 recovery of wages through the Labour Helpline in Navi Mumbai
  • 2000+ non-ration card holders receiving ration in the MMR
  • 500+ account holders getting Jan Dhan account benefit in the MMR
  • 500+ registrations under Pradhan Mantri Street Vendors AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) in the MMR
  • 250+ PAN/Aadhaar cards received across the MMR
  • 200+ voter IDs; 100 more applications in process across the MMR

  • 150+ ration cards in Mumbai, Nagpur and Guwahati
  • 130+ households accessing new water connections in Mumbai and Nagpur
  • 80+ bank accounts being opened across the MMR

Watch short videos on why the rights-based group-up community-led approach is critical and how we helped communities access food through the PDS.

We developed a booklet in Marathi detailing all government announced COVID-relief schemes created to benefit people and distributed this for public awareness on-ground.


With relief, public awareness and research we engaged constantly with the government on advocacy efforts. We developed a charter of demands in March and then through various networks, ensured that the right to food, shelter and work were upheld during this time.

Through the following week, with other network partners, we wrote multiple letters to elected representatives and officials regarding various concerns from the ground.

We also shared the report widely with decision makers. With the findings from our research, we have published policy briefs on:

Impact of Covid-19 in Indian Cities

Our Indian Cities and the Nation-wide Lockdown webinar series brought together diverse city experts to share the ongoing effect of the COVID-19 crisis in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (video and blog), Indore and Bhopal (video and blog), Chennai (video and blog), Nagpur (video and blog), Patna (video, part III and blog), Ahmedabad and Bhuj (video and blog), and Guwahati (video and blog)

We also organised a webinar on child protection during lockdown.

We jointly organised two webinars:

‘Asserting Livelihood and Dignity — Part 3: Urban Livelihoods’, part of the ‘Reimagining the Future: People’s Agenda for a post-COVID Economy’ series, with Centre for Financial Accountability (video and blog).

We co-organised a webinar with Habitat Forum (INHAF) which was unique as it focused on people’s voices from the ground towards equitable decision making (video).

Reflections from the Ground

Our colleagues also shared about their experiences as they engaged in relief work in:
MumbaiNavi Mumbai and Panvel  I  Vasai-Virar

Community members shared experiences:
Youth in Ambujwadi and Ambedkarnagar, Malad I Domestic workers in Guwahati

A case study detailing our dignity and rights-centred COVID-response initiatives during the first wave of the pandemic, was among the top 11 entries nationwide, selected for publication by Azim Premji University in their Stories of Change Volume III (2021−22) compendium.

Responding to the COVID-19 second wave

Addressing emerging vulnerabilities

With the quick spread of the second wave of the pandemic in April 2021, we conducted a rapid situation analysis of the urban poor across 35+ communities (in slums, resettlement colonies, urban villages, the homeless). This survey covered 4 cities of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region—Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Vasai–Virar and Panvel—and helped us understand the emerging vulnerabilities to design appropriate response strategies.

Our focus remained on relief, rehabilitation and recovery with dignity for communities that we work with. We continued to advocate for people’s access to the Public Distribution System where challenges arose, and provided support via ration kits among most vulnerable households.

Furthering access to social protection and vaccination registration and awareness

We also enabled access to relief based social protection measures announced by the Government of Maharashtra. Through this, informal workers (street vendors, construction workers, auto-rickshaw permit holders and domestic workers) accessed the INR 1,500 cash relief.

While in the first wave, we were mostly focused on food security and social welfare coverage of marginalised populations, given the changed context of vaccines being made available and increasing vulnerabilities we dynamically responded to address emerging needs. We also forged a range of innovative partnerships, raising resources from multiple crowdsourced initiatives to offer support.

Supporting Community Health Needs

A significant part of our response efforts were geared towards supporting community health needs. This was necessary, given the challenges people faced in accessing health infrastructure, and the neglect to their regular health monitoring since the pandemic had started. To curb the further spread of the pandemic, it was also important to communicate health safety information and in accessible ways for people. Although this was a newer area of work for us, we realised its criticality and it offered us important lessons.

Supporting Community Women Entrepreneurs to Setup & Strengthen Microbusinesses

The pandemic had deeply affected low-income households and women were doubly marginalised, as many of them had no access to the family’s
finances and resources, and were unable to raise any capital, even if they wanted to setup microbusinesses.

To support their economic empowerment, we were able to offer the identified women entrepreneurs initial support to start or strengthen existing businesses. Our network and resource support offered needed skill building capacities, to help the women start small scale businesses and sustain their families after