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In the gruelling months of the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year, several stories of migrant workers and the poor being stranded without jobs and money emerged. This also led to the emergence of stories of Sonu Sood and the likes – the real heroes who went out of their way to help people out. And in the southern state of Telangana’s capital city Hyderabad, one such story is that of Ramu Dosapati.
Dosapati, an HR executive in a corporate firm, has been running a ‘Rice ATM’ – a 24X7 supply of rice and other rations for the needy in Hyderabad since April 2020. Over the months, Dosapati claims to have spent almost ₹50 lakh out of his own pocket and has no intentions of claiming it back.
Just about a month into lockdown, Dosapati’s younger son wanted to have chicken for his birthday. Dosapati went to the nearest shop to buy chicken, only to find a security guard buying chicken for ₹2000. “I was quite surprised as to why this lady is buying so much chicken. When I asked her I got to know she was buying it as a treat for migrant workers sheltered nearby, who had run out of food. When I asked her about her salary, she said it was ₹6,000. That made me think that if a lady with ₹6,000 salaries can spend ₹2,000 on the needy, why can’t I do the same?” Dosapati told
In the next few days, Dosapati got to work. He went with the security guard to the place where the migrant workers were and made a list of 192 people who needed ration and other necessary items. “There were people who wanted to go back to their hometowns by walking over 400-500 km, I asked them to stay back and told them I would help them out,” he said.
He started out an initial ₹1,50,000 from his savings to feed the needy. But the amount could only result in the ration for a few days. And as the word spread about the Rice ATM, more and more people came forward asking for help. “Then I went to the local Kirana store owner and requested him to lend out ration on my word. I broke my provident fund and showed him the receipt for the same, assuring him that the money would come to me and I would pay him,” he said.
Dosapati, who currently lives in a 1 BHK with his wife and two sons, also wanted a bigger 3 BHK. “My sons have been fighting for a long time as they want separate rooms,” Dosapati tells us. He had even selected a 3 BHK and sold land in his ancestral village for ₹38.5 lakh.
But one morning at 6 am, his apartment guard woke him up saying about 50-60 people had gathered outside and wanted to meet him. The word about ‘Rice ATM’ kept spreading and people wanted help. “That’s when my wife supported me and asked me to go ahead and carry on with the initiative,” he said.
He gave up on the 3BHK house and instead directed the money to help out more people, even when floods struck Hyderabad.