Homeless left to fend for themselves as free meals during lockdown period discontinued

HT Image
HT Image
Published on Jul 08, 2020 10:38 PM IST
Copy Link

New Delhi:

The free meal scheme for marginalised occupants of government night shelter homes has been discontinued since July 1 after the relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in the capital, forcing its occupants to look for alternative arrangements, including stepping out to beg for food or looking for menial jobs..

Hundreds of homeless people lived in more than 230 Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) night shelters. Before the Covid-19 crisis struck in March, there was no provision for meals to residents of these shelters.

Azad Singh, 68, a resident of a shelter at Yamuna Bazaar, said he and his friends were dependent on alms provided by people in nearby temples and gurudwaras before the lockdown, as they were too old to find work.

“With the free meal system closed, we have to step out once again and arrange for food. Even if there are donations outsides the few temples and gurudwaras that are open, the place would be crowded and we run the risk of contracting the virus.” Singh said, adding he hoped the free meal scheme would resume.

Singh often brings food for his fellow occupant Suresh Rikki, 84, who doesn’t know where his next meal will come from these days. “I went to sleep on an empty stomach last Thursday – the first day we didn’t get food at the shelter,” he said. “Since Friday, I am relying on locals and other residents who bring me food sometimes.”

Due to the Covid-19 crisis and the subsequent loss of employment, many daily wage labourers, homeless population and people living on the streets relied on these shelters to get cooked meals.

The Delhi government had provided cooked food twice daily through the network of Hunger Relief Centres to an average of 10 lakh beneficiaries per day for almost two months.

Activists have raised their voices against the discontinuation of free meals at these shelters. “Until and unless work resumes completely and their livelihood is secure, these people should be provided food because they don’t have any social security. Most vulnerable are children, women, elderly, and the disabled. These are the people who don’t protest for their rights and we must take care of them,” said Indu Prakash Singh, member of the State Level Shelter Monitoring Committee.

Rakesh Kumar, member of the non-governmental organisation, Society For Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), which runs a night shelter at Sarai Kale Khan, said most people in shelter homes cook food on their own. “Only a few are dependent on the free meal scheme. For them, it is a problem because there is not much work. Most of them are daily wage labourers and expressed their disappointment when the scheme was discontinued.”

Kumar’s NGO had been preparing food for children at the Sarai Kale Khan shelter and for those who require extra care at the recovery shelter home in the premises before lockdown as well. “During the lockdown, we were preparing meals for around 1,000 people since we had to feed everyone. Now, the number has gone down to 150,” he said.

Savita Topno, 35, a resident at the Sarai Kale Khan shelter, had come to Delhi from her village in Jharkhand only a year ago with her husband looking for work. The Covid-19 crisis and the discontinuation of the free meal scheme have caused difficulties for the family.

“My husband is a daily wage labourer. He went to work on Friday after four days. We had little money and managed to buy some supplies to cook food since. There is no certainty about the coming days. Many are begging for food outside,” she said.

NH Sharma, Director, Night shelter, DUSIB, said, “The arrangement had started March 22 onwards and was till the ‘lockdown’ period ends. The National Urban Livelihoods Mission’s March 28 notification from the central government clearly stated free meals to be provided in all shelters across the country for the ‘lockdown’ period.”

Despite repeated requests through call and messages, Delhi government spokespersons did not comment on the matter.


    Kainat Sarfaraz covers education for Hindustan Times in Delhi. She also takes keen interest in reading and writing on the intersections of gender and other identities.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Sachin Vaze. (PTI)

    Court refuses bail to Sachin Vaze, calls him highly influential

    A special court last week rejected dismissed Mumbai police officer Sachin Vaze's bail in the money laundering case against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. Special judge Rahul Rokade referred to Vaze's statement to the Enforcement Directorate probing the money laundering allegations, saying Deshmukh allegedly gave him a list of 1,750 bars and restaurants and asked him to collect 3,00,000 from each for allowing them to operate beyond restricted time and occupancy in the pandemic situation.

  • Santosh Kumar Sahu and his wife Munni on their new vehicle.

    Beggar buys 90,000 bike after wife complains of backache, spends life savings

    In a heartwarming incident, Santosh Kumar Sahu - a beggar from Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh - bought a moped for his wife Munni. The bike is worth 90,000. Santosh told news agency ANI he got the bike because his wife complained about a backache from sitting on the tricycle he owned earlier. "Now we can now go to Seoni, Itarsi, Bhopal, Indore," he told news agency ANI.

  •  (HT)

    Max temp in Delhi to remain below normal after fresh thunderstorm

    The maximum temperature in Delhi is expected to remain below normal after a fresh thunderstorm. The India Meteorological Department data showed Delhi received 14.6 mm of rainfall till 8:30 am. The fresh thunderstorm was also a result of an active western disturbance, resulting in wind speeds touching around 50 to 60 km per hour around midnight. The thunderstorm began around 11 pm across Delhi and National Capital Region and continued till around 3 am.

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to visit Karnataka's Mysuru to lead celebrations on the upcoming International Yoga Day. (Representative Image)

    PM Modi to lead International Yoga Day celebrations in Mysuru on June 21

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the main event of the eighth International Day of Yoga celebrations on June 21 in Mysuru, Karnataka. As this Yoga day is falling in the "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" year, the Ayush Ministry has also planned to observe IDY at 75 iconic locations across the country and is focusing on branding India on a global scale.

  • A Hindu temple-like architectural design was discovered underneath an old mosque near Mangaluru last month. (ANI image)

    VHP leader hints at 'Ram Mandir-like campaign' in Mangaluru

    After a temple-like structure was found underneath an old mosque on the outskirts of Karnataka's Mangaluru, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader has hinted at the possibility of a "Ram Mandir-like campaign" and vowed to continue the legal fight for the premises. A Hindu temple-like architectural structure was discovered in April during the renovation work at Juma Masjid in Malali, on the outskirts of Mangaluru. All Hindus here strongly believe there was definitely a Hindu god.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, May 24, 2022