Lockdown Heroes: 'Auto Anna' Comes To The Rescue Of Thousands In Bengaluru
Sampath's day begins with one mission in mind—supplying food to anybody in need
C. Sampath has been active in the public sphere for many years now, first as an autorickshaw driver and a union activist and later as a civil society member. In fact, he continues to be the general secretary of Adarsha Auto Drivers Union, a Bengaluru-based association that has thousands of drivers in its fold. With the coronavirus and the lockdown hitting their livelihoods, hundreds of autorickshaw drivers have been left with little to feed their families. After desperate telephone calls from hundreds of drivers, 'Auto Anna' (Auto Brother), as he is affectionately called, Sampath swung into action.
Sampath, 54, and his small band of volunteers have been visiting government food distribution centres and collecting thousands of cooked food packets and handing them not only to autorickshaw drivers but also anybody in dire need.
"This is the least I can do to the people who look up to me," Sampath tells Reader’s Digest. He doesn't remember the number of people he and his team of six volunteers in autos and small pickup vans, have reached out to, but he estimates that it must be thousands per day. "Our job is not done yet. My aim is that no person should go hungry because of this lockdown. I will try and reach out to anybody in distress," he says.
(Left:) Sampath distributing food to the poor and needy. (Right:) Sampath's autorickshaw with food packets. (Photos: C. Sampath)
As he is a union leader and also a civic society activist, Sampath feels that he has been able to get the necessary clearances from the police to go around the city and reach out to the people in need. "We maintain social distancing and take other precautions like cleaning our hands regularly and all our volunteers carry hand sanitizers. We can help others only if we protect ourselves," says Sampath.
Since he is a member of several organizations such as the Lions Club and Bangalore Political Action Committee, a non-partisan group, he was able to convince them to donate generously for those badly affected by the lockdown. According to Sampath, around 1000 dry ration kits have been collected so far, each containing rice, lentils, oil and other essentials and he hopes to collect more.
"I am expecting a few thousand more dry ration packets in the coming days," he says. Sampath says that his day begins at five in the morning and can go on till midnight. "I make it a point to attend every call on my phone as I know that most of the people who are calling me are in desperate need of help. I try my best to help them," he says.