A 30-year-old autorickshaw driver, who saved Rs 2 lakh for his wedding but postponed the ceremony due to the coronavirus lockdown, is now using the money to feed migrant labourers and those in distress on Pune streets.
Akshay Kothawale is not just stopping at that, but also helping senior citizens and pregnant women by offering them free rides to clinics in his vehicle, and also going around the city, creating awareness on how to stay protected from coronavirus.
With the help of his friends, Mr Kothawale is using the money he saved for his wedding to prepare food for nearly 400 people every day. They then go around the city streets and distribute the food among migrant labourers and the poor.
Mr Kothawale, who comes from a humble background, said he feels happy to be able to help others in this time of crisis.
"While working as an autorickshaw driver, I could save around Rs 2 lakh for my wedding which was scheduled on May 25. But, due to the lockdown extension, we thought it would not be appropriate to have the ceremony now. So my fiancee and I decided to postpone the wedding," he said.
"I saw several people on roads who could not even afford to have one meal and were struggling to survive. Some of my friends and I then thought of doing something to help the daily-wagers and those in need," he said.
"I decided to use my savings for the cause and some of my friends also chipped in," said Mr Kothawale. They then set up a kitchen and started preparing chapatis and sabzi (vegetables)", which they have been distributing at places where migrant labourers and others in need gather.
"Using my autorickshaw, we distribute a one-time meal among people at Maldhakka Chowk near the railway station, Sangamwadi and Yerawada areas," he said.
Since his cash flow is drying up fast, Mr Kothawale and his friends have now decided to replace the chapati-sabzi combo with pulao or sambar rice, he said.
"But, we are continuing distribution of food among the migrant labourers and those in need," he said.
The group intends to continue providing food to people at least till May 31 with the help of the funds they have. The auto driver has also put up a loudspeaker on his three-wheeler through which he and his friends have been creating awareness among people about coronavirus and how they can stay safe.
The group has also distributed masks and sanitisers to roadside dwellers.
"Amid the lockdown, I am also offering free rides in the autorickshaw to senior citizens and pregnant women who need to visit a doctor," Mr Kothawale said.
During the deluge in Maharashtra's Sangli and Kolhapur last year, he and his associates had sent food and other relief material for the flood-affected people, he added.