Compounding suffering

Almost all major charities in Kashmir, working for orphans, widows and other poor, are facing a hard time as they are not receiving enough donations even during Ramadhan when Muslims give most of the donations. Aliya Bashir reports.

The various charities such as orphanages which are run on local donations and alms have been unable to raise resources due to continuing unrest. People associated with charities say that more than 85 percent of donations are made in the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan.  

Muslims believe that giving alms during Ramadhan is more rewarding so they prefer to give alms and the mandatory Zakat during this month. However, continual curfews and protest shutdown for almost three months now, most of the cash strapped Kashmiris are unable to give alms to the tune they used to give.

With more than three weeks of Ramadhan already over, the collection of all major charities have fallen drastically in comparison to previous year. Now, they are hoping that the last week or so would compensate them.

“The Ramadhan is the peak season for charities. We build our whole budget on the charity people make during Ramadhan. This cannot be compensated until the next Ramadhan,” said Zahoor Ahmed Tak, Patron Yateem trust, Maisuma Srinagar. “Very few people give charities on normal days. But in this month everyone gives their small or big share necessarily.”

Tak says that when all the businesses have suffered huge losses over these months, then it is very difficult for businessman to give donations like they used to. “People are confined to their homes and the business is on halt. How can we ask to them to give charity in the same way that they used to give before? That is totally illogical,” he said. “If somebody used to give 10,000, now he had reduced it to 3000-4000.”

Besides many Mohalla or neighbourhood-level charities and relief committees which have sprung up in the last couple of months are also eating into the larger charities. Tak said, “As people were asked by Hurriyat programs to help the poor at mohalla level in Bait-ul-Maal committees. This area-wise charity devored a lot of donations that will go to charities working for needy people.”

Various charities looking after the orphans, widows and the downtrodden would place advertisements in local newspapers seeking donations in Ramadhan. But this year has been different. Few charities have placed advertisements very few advertisements in newspapers this year.

Syed Kounsar Attiq, Senior Public Relation officer, Yateem Foundation, Jawahar Nagar, says that they have restricted their newspaper advertisements for the charity on normal working days. “We only publish ads on normal days.

Newspapers don’t reach everywhere in hartal (strikes). So there is no fun to publish these in hartals,” he said.
People associated with charities say that many of their donors have been unable to deposit alms with them as they could not reach their offices or the representatives from the charities could not reach them.

Kounsar says, “Our donors are mostly from Soura, Zakura, Hazaratbal and the adjacent places. But only people from up town areas like Jawahar Nagar and Rajbagh are managing to deposit their alms and donations with us.”

Due to restrictions on public movement many people are giving charity to different people, who they could reach, rather than the major charities working in Kashmir.

The people running charities fear that their activities would be badly curtailed if the present trend of depleted donations continue.

“Last year we had collected an amount of 50 Lakh rupees and this year it is just six Lakh rupees until now. If things won’t change quickly then our yearly calendar of activities will suffer badly,” Tak said.

Same is the case with other charities. Kounsar says that Yateem Foundation has collected just 30 percent of donations as compared to first 20 days of previous Ramadhan.

Poverty-stricken helpless families who need support even for having basic foods are normally helped by the Zakat funds. Charities say the assistance is getting more meagre and more irregular.

Many major charities have already curtailed their operations or the amount of monthly allowance they will pay to the widows and the very poor.

Yateem Foundation’s widow welfare fund has already that provides monthly allowance to widows, mostly, of far off places with no other source of income, is already under pressure. Kounsar said, “We used to give them (poor widows) 600 rupees a month.  But now we have decreased it to 400-500. Besides this, we had even decreased the salary of our employees up to 25%. Some scholarships for orphans have also been delayed due to scarcity of funds.”

The charities, however, are still optimistic that they could collect enough donations in the last week of Ramadhan to run their operations.

An official at Sakhawat Centre, Bemina, wishing not to be named said, “We are yet to get the results of our charity fund for this month. As our entire field workers are busy in collecting the charity for the orphans in different districts.”

All the major charities working in Kashmir are worried that if the donations are not adequate it would be a tremendous crisis for the poorest and the most-needy in the society.

“When widows and other weaker sections of the society ask for the charity as per their routine, can we explain to them that we are running short of funds?” Tak said. “How would the poverty-stricken families make things do without our assistance. They would be forced to beg.”

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