Delhi govt to triple scale of food programme, will feed 1.2 million poorUpdated: Mar 31, 2020 22:07 IST
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal Tuesday said his government will triple the scale of the ongoing food distribution programme meant to feed the poor people in the capital, during the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease.
“So far, we were feeding around 4 lakh people twice a day. From tomorrow (Wednesday), we will be able to feed as many as 12 lakh people twice a day,” Kejriwal said.
While the government was lauded for its efforts, reports had emerged that at these crowded community centres, no effort was being made to maintain social distancing, a necessary precaution to curtail the spread of the virus that has claimed thousands of lives across countries.
Addressing this concern, the CM said in order to maintain social distancing, the Delhi government has made available 2,750 school premises and shelter homes for the food distribution programme, apart from the designated spots in the 272 municipal wards.
According to senior government officials, the decision came after a meeting earlier in the day between Kejriwal and lieutenant-governor (L-G) Anil Baijal.
In a separate statement, Baijal’s office said, “Ensuring social distancing is the topmost priority at the moment. Food distribution centres to be increased from 500 to 2,500 to adhere to social distancing norms effectively. The Delhi government and the police have also been directed to monitor all home quarantine cases strictly and use technology for effective monitoring. Action will be taken against violators.”
It further said, “The government’s health department has been directed to prepare for expansion of hospital beds and intensive care units, procurement of testing kits, personal protection equipment, ventilators, nebulisers and medicines to prepare for a potential overload of patients.”
Admitting to a shortage in personal protection gears needed for health workers, as well as ventilators and testing kits, Kejriwal in his press conference said, “People are open to donate to the chief minister’s relief fund. But it would be great if they could directly provide us with personal protection gears, ventilators and testing kits. We need these things urgently.”
The chief minister also admitted to a temporary shortage of essential items in ration shops but assured people that the shortfall will be met in a day or two.
Baijal had on Sunday wrote a strongly worded letter to Kejriwal saying there was perhaps “a failure” on the part of the Delhi government to make “adequate and timely arrangements” for the migrant workers which resulted in their mass exodus over the past three to four days.
Baijal, in his letter,said most of the needed measures lie within the executive domain of the elected government and hence sought urgent measures to ensure that adequate arrangements with proper social distancing protocols are made in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Centre.
He had told Kejriwal to reach out to the migrant workers and to convince them to stay put or to shift to government shelters.
According to the Census 2011 data on migration, Delhi is home to around 6.3 million migrants and around 24% of them came to the city looking for jobs. Estimates of trade unions and the government’s wage board committee say the city has around 1.5 million daily wage workers employed in the unorganised sector, which has an arbitrary record-keeping process when it comes to employment and wage payment.
Currently, around 12,000 migrant workers have taken refuge in Delhi government-run shelters – either night shelters for the homeless or the community centres and schools turned into temporary shelters.
“The total number of those who stayed back is difficult to ascertain but it is expected to be more than a million. Hence, we have created a capacity to feed 1.2 million through our food distribution programme,” a revenue department official said.
On Tuesday, the central government told the Supreme Court that around 500,000 – 600,000 migrant workers walked back to their villages from cities across India after the lockdown was announced.