New Delhi: Most of the civic defence volunteers of the almost 20,000 such volunteers deployed across 11 districts in Delhi during the Covid-19 pandemic, are unemployed now, though Covid cases have decreased, according to sources, and they are waiting for the possibility to resume their duties. Several civic volunteers are now running their own shops or small businesses, or driving rickshaws.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to several authorities who were responsible for the deployment of the civic volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic. After speaking to several officials, this correspondent has come to know that many civic volunteers have kept on working selflessly during Covid-19 without receiving a penny from the officials. “I know many people who have worked day and night and are yet to receive payments. Most of these civic volunteers are from underprivileged backgrounds and have received no help from the government or the officials. They join as volunteers, hoping that they will receive employment and money, but once the work gets over, their job is done and then they sit at home, waiting for some job opportunities,” a traffic police, who worked with several volunteers during the pandemic, told this paper. Many civic volunteers don’t understand the nature of their jobs. They believe that they have got permanent employment without understanding the fact that civic volunteers are required only at the time of natural or manmade disasters or emergencies. “Volunteers are enrolled in different departments. We received notice from several departments about the requirement for volunteers. For instance, in every dispensary, hospital, and so on, the number of volunteers varies. As far as I remember, till March 31, the volunteers were working, and now that Covid cases have decreased, the requirements are less,” an official told TSG.
She further added, “Many volunteers, who were enrolled as civic volunteers, have worked tirelessly during Covid. They were helping and instructing people to follow Covid protocols. However, little did they realise that they would be deployed once we received any notice about the requirement of the volunteers in the case of emergencies or disasters. We work as per the instructions.”
Several civic volunteers have also not received their payments. When The Sunday Guardian enquired about the delay of payments, it was informed that the applicants don’t inform the officials about changes in the bank details. Another official from the DM office told this paper, “There have been a few instances where applicants changed their bank details without informing us, and also, I have seen that many applicants make mistakes while filling up the bank details, where the amount is to be dispatched.”
The DM authorities don’t take the background into consideration. However, police verification is required once the applicant is selected to work as a volunteer. While speaking to the correspondent, the officials said, “Most of the volunteers are aged between 18-45 years, and we only observe whether they are physically fit or not. Once they get enrolled, we train them. Also, we make them sign a self-declaration form that clearly states that they will work selflessly. We also collaborate with several agencies so that the work can be conducted smoothly.” During Covid, almost 500 volunteers were trained, whereas, during normal circumstances, around 100 volunteers are trained. The volunteers receive an allowance only when they work for 8-12 hours. When the volunteers work for 3-4 hours, they receive no allowance.
When The Sunday Guardian visited the central district of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), Project Officer Harish Mathur said, “During Covid, we needed several volunteers to engage in several activities like ambulance requirements, senior citizen helpline numbers and many more. We hired them on a paid basis, and then after 31 March, when everything was streamlined, they were withdrawn. Around 104 civic volunteers were engaged during food distribution during Covid, 125 volunteers were engaged in control rooms; six were engaged in the senior citizen helpline numbers, and 12 volunteers were engaged in raising awareness activities. When there is a need for civic volunteers, we start advertising, Now that the cases have decreased, some are engaged in their own business activities, running shops, working as security guards, or working as marshals.”