In February 2018, a 30-year-old Adivasi man, Madhu was attacked by a mob in Palakkad’s Attapadi for stealing food. The impact of this tragedy was felt in Madurai, around 300 kilometres away, where Jeevan R Shanmugarajan decided to do his bit, however small, to make sure another man or woman does not die of hunger. Thus, SORU was born.
Social Organisation for Rural and Underprivileged (SORU) is an informal group in Madurai, which has been distributing food packets to the destitute across the city every day. Starting with giving one food packet per day, the group now distributes around 30 packets a day to the destitute across Madurai city.
The force behind SORU is Jeevan, a 39-year-old businessman from Madurai, who says that Madhu’s death had a huge impact on him. “If a man was beaten to death because he stole food, then there is something really wrong with the society. People would steal food only if they are hungry and are not able to afford to buy food. So, I wanted to do something from my part to maybe avoid any such similar incidents,” he told TNM.
The journey began one fine morning in January 2019, when Jeevan and his wife Deepa, bought a packet of food and donated it to a person in need. In due course of time, Jeevan’s friends joined the cause by donating time and money, thus making SORU bigger.
Jeevan collects Rs 1000 per day as donation and uses it to buy raw materials to make cooked food packets. “When I started out it was just my wife and I. But now we are 15-16 people. We get contributions every month and I also pitch in to compensate for the shortfall to buy raw materials,” he explains.
Jeevan says it costs Rs 1300-1500 per day to buy materials, make and pack food. The food is packed and collected around noon. Jeevan, his colleagues and employees distributed these food packets across the city. The group also makes sure ensure that the food packets are distributed evenly across the city and not restrict themselves to a particular area.
When asked about the name of the group SORU, which also means ‘food’ in Tamil, Jeevan says that his friend helped him come up with a name. “We never had a name for the group initially. But then recently we realised that we want to formalise this and want to register the organisation. It would help us in attracting more donors and also help them get Income Tax exemptions on their donations,” he says.