New Delhi: They arrived in Mumbai wearing red caps and carrying red flags, many barefoot. Others wore shoes and chappals with soles so worn out, they barely protected their swollen and cracked feet from the scorching hot tar.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of farmers descended on Mumbai. They had walked 180 kilometres over five days, demanding a broader debt waiver program, better prices for their crops and land rights. Their protest is finally dominating headlines and has prompted a number of Mumbai-based journalists to come together to organise a shoe donation drive, with a little help from social media.
Prachi Salve, a Programme Manager with IndiaSpend – a data-driven journalism website based in Mumbai – was closely tracking the farmers’ protest. Speaking to NDTV, Ms Salve said she was moved by the farmers’ demands and the problems they faced due to their long and tiring trek from Nashik.
“I went to Azad Maidan to cover the story today and realised that (many of the farmers’) had torn and tattered footwear,” Ms Salve explained. “It is really hot and seeing these people walking on hot tar – it was very moving.”
“I wanted to do something to help these people who’ve travelled such a long way,” she said.
And so, Ms Salve, along with a motley crew of colleagues, decided to start a 24-hour shoe donation drive, spreading the word via social media.
This afternoon, the journalists tweeted asking for donations of footwear – ideally flip-flops, preferably in new or gently-used condition – for the protesters.
We are collecting footwear in Lower Parel, Mum, for protestors in Mumbai who have worn them out in the march from Nashik…pref new, hawaii/flip flop ideal, mid size..you can hook up with @KaleKrutika. Deadline is tomorrow noon: @b50@ShankkarAiyar
— Govindraj Ethiraj (@govindethiraj) March 12, 2018
Hi. Due to the limited time period of the campaign and other logistical issues, we are not accepting money. Thank you for your support. For dropping footwear, you can contact me on 8780282414.
— Krutika Kale (@KaleKrutika) March 12, 2018
Listen up folks, especially Lower Parel. If you’re pained at the sight of sore, cracked, feet and want to donate slippers to the farmers, ping @KaleKrutika. Deadline: tomorrow noon. Details: https://t.co/Y1HT0ckf29
— Anupam Gupta (@b50) March 12, 2018
Please remember – preferably NEW, hawaii, flip-flop. New. Please don’t donate torn out, worn out stuff. Thanks.
— Anupam Gupta (@b50) March 12, 2018
Their call has had many netizens asking whether they can donate cash. But, for now, the journalists say they’d prefer donations of footwear that can be distributed directly to those in need.
“It’s a very short call-to-action and we’re trying to keep things as simple as possible because the farmers are here for such a short period,” explained Ms Salve. But the positive response of Mumbaikars has left her heartened. “We’ve had many calls from people wanting to donate shoes and send chappals to our office (in Mumbai’s Lower Parel),” she said.
The shoe donation drive is only one of many initiatives Mumbaikars have started to support the protesting farmers.
“Regular people stopped by (Azad Maidan) to help with food and water, offering everything from packets of biscuits and bananas to chai. It was very nice to see help pouring in,” said Ms Salve.
Social media has been flooded with images of people offering snacks and water to the farmers. In Mulund, some residents even showered flowers upon them.
Officials estimate that upto 50,000 farmers walked all the way from Nashik to reach Mumbai, demanding a complete loan waiver, fair pay and land rights.
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