It’s another day of the lockdown and Kuldeep Singh Juneja is busy on the phone. The Raipur North MLA is reaching out to the city’s community groups and entrepreneurs to solicit aid for the needy. Juneja, 61, commands widespread respect and those he contacts for help find it hard to say no.
Like Mahesh Wadhwani, director of Raipur’s Mayfair Golf Club, who responded promptly to Juneja’s appeal and issued a cheque of Rs 11 lakh for the chief minister’s relief fund. He also contributed a truckload of rice towards rations for the poor. “When Kuldeep Juneja issued an appeal, we could not say anything but a yes,” says Wadhwani. “He enjoys a special connect with the people.” Juneja first approached his own Sikh community for aid. Soon, business communities, such as the Aggarwals, Jains and Sindhis, provided face masks, thermal temperature scanners, oxygen meters and personal protection equipment. Farming communities gave rice. Juneja has so far raised about Rs 70 lakh for the CM’s fund. His home is the nerve centre of his relief work, with volunteers preparing food packets (rice, flour, dal, salt, chilli powder and turmeric). Over 100,000 packets have been distributed, mainly within Raipur.
Juneja even got three city hotels to allow their premises to serve as quarantine centres (a total of 100 beds). With migrants returning in droves, he spoke to the head of the Shadani Darbar, a Sindhi religious centre, and arranged for quarantining 300 people there.
Juneja’s parents themselves were migrants. His father Inder Singh Juneja arrived in 1945 from West Punjab, now in Pakistan, and settled in what is modern-day Raipur. “My family has experienced the pain of being uprooted. God was kind to us, so I cannot but be kind to those in distress now,” he says.