Coronavirus update: Police, civilians come out to feed hungry in Delhi during lockdown
Covid-19 update: There are a number of security guards, industrial workers, daily wagers, street vendors and rickshaw pullers, among others, who have been out of work and are out on the streets waiting for help.Updated: Mar 27, 2020 07:19 IST
“Please help us,” said the voice on the other end when a policeman at north Delhi’s Inderpuri police post picked up a call at 9.30am Thursday.
Dilshad and Prashant, both 20 year olds, had had their last meal — a few biscuits and water — four days ago. In their desperation, they dialled 100, the old police helpline.
A police team was rushed to pick the two men from their rented one-room set in Zakhira, near Sarai Rohilla, another team was sent out to arrange for some food.
By noon, the duo had lunch.
Deputy commissioner of police (north) Monika Bhardwaj said said Dilshad is from Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Prashant from Uttar Pradesh and worked together in a factory in Trinagar.
It was Dilshad who had made the police call. “We were helpless. We earn around ₹200 a day. The lockdown was announced suddenly and we had no money since. Earlier, everyday we used to eat together at an eatery. Now the shops and roadside eateries are also shut. All we had were biscuits. We tried to call the government helplines but none responded. Finally, when we couldn’t bear the hunger for another day, I dialled 100,” he said.
Dilshad said the duo were scared about their future. “Apart from ration, the policemen even gave us Rs 1000. We had never known that policemen can turn out to be so helpful. However, what we worry about now is that after sometime the money given to us and the ration will also get over. Who’s door will we knock then,” he asked.
DCP Bhardwaj said the ration and some money were all voluntarily arranged by the policemen at the Inderlok police post.
Stories about such service abound in the national capital as the national lockdown passed its second day. Factories were shut and many workers had no way to earn their sustenance. Delhi Police spokesperson, Anil Mittal, said that the police got 26 calls from people distressed that they had “no food or money”. Such calls were forwarded to volunteers.
The DCP on Thursday evening also visited Kashmere Gate, where at least 3,000 homeless people were given food. “It was an NGO’s generosity. We were there to assist them and ensure everyone maintained a safe distance,” the officer said.
In a similar move, deputy commissioner of police (central) Sanjay Bhatia said they had set up a temporary kitchen near Jama Masjid and arrangements with help of some individuals.
“We fed at least 800 people and distributed 2,000 food packets were also distributed. Many temple and gurdwara committees, social worker groups and residents also contributed,” Bhatia said.
Station House Officer from Raja Garden, Najafgarh and Kalkaji police stations also came out with their teams and distributed food packets to people. Many women, elderly people and children were given food to ensure proper nutrition in the time of pandemic, said Delhi police spokesperson, Anil Mittal.
Apart from the police, people from different communities, neighbourhoods and religious institutions also stepped in.
Gurpreet Singh Arora (37), along with neighbours Manmeet Singh Bhatia (36) and Deepak R Kapoor (38) in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka, got curfew passes and spent half the day buying groceries to prepare a langar (community meal).They drove around the city distributing food, including for those providing essential services and stray animals.
“It started with the workers in my own factory in Bawana. When the lockdown was announced, they did not have anywhere to go. It was then the three of us decided that we will help such people around the area. Initially we cooked food for them at our own houses, but that fell short of the number of those out in need. Later, we requested our neighbourhood gurdwara if they could open their kitchen to prepare food at a bigger scale. They agreed and now their staff cooks the meals while we procure the supplies,” said Arora, a resident of Dwarka sector-3.
The three men, however, practice social distancing during their service.“We carry gloves, sanitisers and masks with us. We keep the food in different packets with disposable plates and glasses. Wherever we stop to distribute, we don’t let a crowd gather. The packets are kept on the car’s bonnet from where they pick it up one by one such that there is no manual contact,” said Kapoor, a marketing professional.
There are a number of security guards, industrial workers, daily wagers, street vendors and rickshaw pullers, among others, who have been out of work and are out on the streets waiting for help. “We got about a 1000 rotis and curry prepared to be distributed. We will be providing three-meals a day from Friday,” said Arora.
Bhatia, who runs a sports academy, said that they have been involved in organising langars in their neighbourhood. “We don’t know how many we can help, but we are trying to reach out to as many as we can,” he said.
S S Bajaj, secretary, gurudwara, Dwarka sector-11, said that though they have suspended langars within the premises under the lockdown, they opened the kitchen for the cause. “This is a great way to help. While we cannot let people gather here, we can certainly help in making the food reach their doorsteps,”said Bajaj.
In another such effort, a group of people at south Delhi’s Aya Nagar and west Delhi’s Pashchim Vihar have been providing supplies such as flour, pulses, oil and rice to such families. “We have been distributing groceries to the daily wagers and factory workers in the area. We have also pasted posters with our phone numbers in the neighbourhood for anyone who has been left out to reach out to us,” said Ved Pal Lohia, a resident of Aya Nagar’s C-block.