Covid lockdown: Stranded migrant workers complain of insufficient food distributionUpdated: Apr 29, 2020 23:01 IST
Ranjeet Kumar, a stranded migrant worker from Akbarpur village of Ambedkar Nagar district, returned to his small rented room, without any food yet again, at Gheja village in Sector 93 – one of many distribution spots in Noida.
Ranjeet is not alone. There are thousands of migrant workers in the city who have started to feel the pangs of hunger amid the ongoing lockdown as their money has run out.
As many migrants assemble near a small e-rickshaw carrying meals twice a day, many have to return with empty plates as the food often runs out before reaching everyone.
“This is a common thing. Many families, like my brother’s, have now even stopped going to the food distribution spots. He has a wife and a child. Even if he manages to get the meal, it’s not enough to sustain the family,” says Ranjeet, who has borrowed some money from a friend to buy some ration.
Regretting his decision of not leaving for his home district out of the fear of the pandemic, Ranjeet says that he, along with some other stranded migrants, once went to the community kitchen in Sector 110 -- about 2.5 kilometres from his house -- to get some food. However, they were beaten up by the police, he claims.
Indrajit Kumar and his wife Anju Kumari, another stranded migrants from Mahoba district of the state, have the similar story to tell. Indrajit, a daily wager, has not earned anything since Holi. With limited cash in hand, their story resonates that of Ranjeet.
“Luckily, three days back we received a dry ration packet. However, none of our neighbours did. The packet included five kilos atta, three kilos rice and potato, one kilo daal, one litre of oil, and some spices and salt. This is the first set that we have received and will sustain us for a week. We don’t know what will happen if the lockdown extends,” says Anju, a domestic help.
However, Reeta Singh, a migrant from Bijnor who lives with her husband and a toddler at a rented room in Gheja, was not lucky. “The crowd often goes out of control as everyone wants to ensure that they get food. Thus it’s not wise to carry my child, so my husband goes to the distribution spot. But even if he manages to get food, it’s sufficient for one person only. We are running out of money and don’t know how will we manage next week,” she says.
“We have called at the helpline 18004192211, demanding ration, but nothing happens,” says Reena Kashyap, another daily wager from Jhansi, who lives with her husband Vikki and a four-year-old child at a rented room.
The narrow alleys of Gheja village have hundreds of such stranded migrant workers living in small rented rooms who claim of being almost stripped of savings and are now struggling to survive.
Covered under Bhangel community kitchen, Gheja is one of at least 20 other such spots where food is distributed by the district administration.
According to official figures, out of 100,436 food packets (or meals) distributed across the 16 community kitchens of Gautam Budh Nagar, about 8,760 food packets were distributed by the Bhangel community kitchen for dinner on Tuesday. However, there is no clear data on how many stranded migrant families are to be fed.
However, administration officials claim that there is no dearth of food. “If some people are not getting the food, they should complain to us. Quality meals are prepared at the community kitchen in Bhangel everyday. We also receive food from NGOs like Akshya Patra. In my region, there are 30 to 45 spots where food is distributed. The issue is that people want ration instead of food,” says Vineet Mishra, Bhangel tehsildar, who is in-charge of Bhangel community kitchen.
When asked about the distribution of dry ration, Mishra says, “We usually don’t provide ration. However, we do distribute whatever we get through donations. Three days back, CRPF sent us 100 packets of ration and they were all distributed among the needy.”
Another official said the administration tries its best to deliver food to every needy person. “We ensure that everyone gets the food. But there are many who despite having ration at their houses line up for free meals. In a way, they take the share of the poor. We have also noticed that food like khichdi is thrown as waste in certain sectors,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.