Many mouths, little food: Poor pay price for UT’s miscalculation

With social distancing tossed aside, hundreds of people are queuing up for a meal at the one or two distribution points in their areas
People waiting in a queue for food in the heat of noon in colony no 4 of Industrial Area Phase 1, Chandigarh, amid the curfew on Wednesday.(Keshav Singh/HT photo)
People waiting in a queue for food in the heat of noon in colony no 4 of Industrial Area Phase 1, Chandigarh, amid the curfew on Wednesday.(Keshav Singh/HT photo)
Published on Apr 15, 2020 11:03 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | ByVivek Gupta & Munieshwer A Sagar, Chandigarh

It is 1 pm and the Sun is its scorching best. Waiting for food amongst a horde of 500 people at colony number 4, a slum in Industrial Area, Umesh Yadav said it was unbearable to stand in the heat and wait for food. “Today evening we got no food. I dont want to live on the mercy of the government if I can earn two meals a day for my family, but I am helpless,” said Yadav, a printing press worker.

Janaki Devi, a middle aged woman, said that few days ago she had requested officials and the area councillor to increase the number of distribution points and deliver food earlier due to rising temperature, but no one has paid heed. “Those sitting in office should try standing in the heat for hours for just two chapattis and dal,” she said.


Nihal Ansari, an unemployed daily wager, said about 2,500 people lived in the colony, but with only two distribution points for lunch and its worse in the evening with one distribution point. “In the mad rush, no one follows social distancing. Many don’t even get food,” he said.

Papu Shukla, husband of ward number 13 councillor, said Kajheri village in their ward with 5,000 households has only one distribution point. “When they ask for more, they face humiliation. If it can’t ensure dignity of the poor, it is better the administration stops giving us food,” he said.

Bapudham, a Sector 26 slum, is at the mercy of NGOs, with no government involvement or supply. Area councillor Dalip Sharma said there were 1,500 labourers who have been reduced to beggars after the lockdown. “While we manage dinner with help of the area’s transport association and Sector 28 gurdwara, we have no resources to feed them lunch,” he said.

Deputy commissioner Mandip Brar said changes in the distribution system are underway so needy will be fed well till the curfew is in place. He said distribution of wheat and dal to beneficiaries of Centre’s schemes has been speeded up.

With the curfew extended till May 3, many NGOs have backed out from supplying cooked food to UT administration. The pleaded helplessness saying they have run out of dry ration.

NGOs and the Red Cross are supplying most of the cooked food distributed by UT administration which claims it supplies about 50,000 food packets to the needy everyday. Organisations which have discontinued the service say they had made arrangements and had mandatory permissions till April 14 only.

One such organisation, Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math Temple, Sector 20-B, Chandigarh, was supplying 10,000 meals a day. Jai Prakash Gupta of the mutth said, “Resource constraint is an issue but we are trying to find a way to restart.”

Non-availability of ration is the biggest hindrance for organisations providing cooked food.

Bhupinder Verma, general secretary, Prachin Shiv Mandir Management committee, Ram Darbar, said that in March, the administration assured them of dry ration and temple committee would supply cooked meals. “Even though they didn’t do as promised, we supplied cooked food for 500 people everyday. Now, if we are given ration, our volunteers will contribute,” Verma said.

Harishankar Mishra, chairman of Hallo Majra’s Jai Gurudev Sansathan, which supplied 1,000 meals said ration was not available due to curfew. “We are figuring out how to restart but in the current scenario, it it will be hard to do,” he said.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021