Coronavirus update: Delhi govt scales up its free food distribution, ties up with eateries to feed the needy

Updated on Mar 28, 2020 05:10 AM IST

Covid-19 update: Kejriwal announced that the government, with the help of religious institutions, NGOs and private companies, will be expanding its free meal scheme to cover 2 lakh people Friday.

Homeless persons and stranded migrant workers queue up to receive food being distributed by Delhi Police curing the nation-wide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus, at Khari Baoli, New Delhi, Friday, March 27, 2020.(Vipin Kumar ./ HT Photo)
Homeless persons and stranded migrant workers queue up to receive food being distributed by Delhi Police curing the nation-wide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus, at Khari Baoli, New Delhi, Friday, March 27, 2020.(Vipin Kumar ./ HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySweta Goswami, Abhishek Dey and Ashish Mishra, New Delhi

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal Friday said his government is scaling up the free food distribution system to cater to at least four lakh poor in the national capital.

To ensure that the government’s free meal scheme is equitably accessible to the needy so that they do not have to walk for miles looking for food, Kejriwal said his government would start providing lunch and dinner at 325 government-run schools.

This is beyond the distribution started at the existing 234 night shelters and 35 community halls. Food – two meals a day comprising rice, lentils and vegetable stew – is already being provided at these places for free for the past five days.

Owing to the 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, all schools and other educational institutions are currently shut across the country.

“The Delhi government will not let anyone die of hunger during this lockdown period. Those who do not have access to ration cards will also get food. We are providing free lunch and dinner at 234 night shelters and anyone can walk in and eat at these places. So far, we have fed around 20,000 people, but the demand is increasing exponentially,” Kejriwal said.

Kejriwal announced that the government, with the help of religious institutions, NGOs and private companies, will be expanding its free meal scheme to cover 2 lakh people Friday.

“By tomorrow (Saturday), we are aiming to double the supply and will offer food to 4 lakh people. Lunch and dinner will be provided at 325 government schools. Every school will feed at least 500 people during lunch and dinner,” the chief minister said.

He, however, asked agencies to ensure that the beneficiaries practise social distancing during the food distribution process.

Kejriwal assured the chief ministers of all other states that all migrant workers living in Delhi will be taken care of. “We will try to extend all possible help to the migrants living in the national capital,” he promised.

Delhi has around 1.5 million migrant daily wage workers, as per the estimates of the government’s wage board. Thousands of them have taken shelter in government-run centres. These people are unable to return to their villages and towns in the absence of trains and buses, and also cannot afford to live in the city in the absence of work that would fetch them daily wages.

Collectors in all 11 revenue districts of Delhi have been directed to ensure distribution of food to those in need in at least two locations in each of Delhi’s 272 wards, an order issued by the office of Delhi’s chief secretary (which HT has seen) said.

The government has also formed a nine-member coordination committee for food and shelter arrangements, to be chaired by the chief minister. Other than government officials, the committee also has urban planners and disaster management experts.

All 70 MLAs in Delhi have also been asked to ensure that food is distributed in their respective assembly segments, Kejriwal said.

The three municipal corporations of Delhi are also preparing lists of restaurants which have volunteered to contribute to the cause. “All district officers have been asked to personally talk to eatery owners in their areas,” Radha Krishan, spokesperson of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, said.

He further said, “Till Friday afternoon, we have arranged for 20,000 food packets a day in association with hotels and restaurants. Efforts will continue till the end of the lockdown period.”

Riyaz Amlani, the trustee of the National Restaurant Association of India, said: “Restaurants and hotels are eager to help. We are still in the process of contacting the major eateries individually. Several of them have agreed to contribute food. The next 24 hours will be crucial in getting a better picture of the scale of the contribution from these hotels and restaurants.”

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