The story of these HCCB employees is our way of thanking the hundreds that did not look the other way when they saw someone in need. The lockdown couldn’t keep their spirits down. Checks and balances applied to them too, but the values of HCCB and their empathy kept them going.
One for the saviours 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 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 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 Shanker, 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 Shiva Shanker.
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 Bapusaheb Ligade, AVP, Business Shared Services at HCCB and Jayant Parsu Patel, National Manager, at HCCB, took the lead. They came forward to serve food to the housekeepers 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
Rahul Bapusaheb Ligade
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 coronavirus. But Dharmveer had done his duty!
No doubt, these selfless souls of HCCB, define Indianness. They seek meaning for life beyond the daily chores.