Five friends behind Ambala’s social group

Nitish Sharma

Pandav Dal, a group started by five friends 16 years ago for social service, has been providing warm clothes, shoes and other items to the needy to weather cold conditions during the winter.

The group has set up a camp near Farooka Khalsa School in Ambala Cantonment to give warm clothes and other items to the needy. Besides, every night Pandav Dal members take rounds near the railway station and the bus stand to provide clothes to people. Besides Ambala, the group members also go to the slum areas in neighbouring Kurukshetra district to help the poor.

Sanjay Rathi, president of the Pandav Dal, says, “It all started 16 years ago with organising bhandaras (community lunch) and chhabils of sweetened cold water during the summer. With the passage of time, more people joined the Pandav Dal and we started doing different social works. Three years ago, the group started a camp to provide warm clothes, shoes, and other items to needy people, as we have seen them suffer during the winter. We appeal to people to donate their spare clothes for the poor and the needy, so that they can shield themselves during the winter. On an average, around 50 people take clothes from the camp in a day”.

Intially, Sanjay Rathi, Rajkumar, Sandeep, Arun and Arvind started the group. “Unfortunately, Arvind died in an accident four years ago. Over 200 members joined the group in Ambala Cantonment over the years. There are over 50 active members who work throughout the year. All members are doing private jobs and they contribute whenever we decide to organise an event to help the poor,” says Rathi.

He adds, “We were five friends in the beginning and wanted to name the group, so we decided to call it Pandav Dal. We later got it registered”.

Rathi says, “There are a large number of donors in Ambala who have asked us to provide them with the details of the needy persons, after verification, so that they can help them in case of a medical emergency or in any other situation. We also try to provide food to the needy at least once a week”.

“The clothes, which are given to the needy, are washed in a laundry first to ensure that these are infection free. There is a donor (Raman Anand) in Ambala who bears all laundry expenses,” says Rathi. Deepak Kanojia, a member, says, “People come and donate clothes for the poor but sometimes we also go and collect clothes when people express their inability to deliver clothes at the camp”.

“At present, the government sets up night shelters only during the winter. There should be an all-weather night shelter near the bus stand with food and bathing facilities so that people, who can’t afford to stay in hotels, can stay there. We believe that weather changes but our needs remain the same throughout the year. We have a plan to resume our old project of a Roti Bank for which we need a proper place to store food safely. The government should come forward and help us in this project,” says Rathi.