After Kejriwal’s announcement, free food for Delhi’s homeless

Published on Mar 22, 2020 07:10 PM IST
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ByRisha Chitlangia, New Delhi

Mehnaz (40), who has been living at the Delhi government-run shelter home at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), didn’t have to worry about what to cook for lunch on Sunday.

She and her daughter Gulfiza (11), who is undergoing treatment at AIIMS for cancer, are among hundreds of people who were served rice and rajma for lunch by the caretakers of the shelter home.

On Saturday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced that free food will be served to homeless people at all the 200-odd shelter homes along with other measures to help daily wagers and needy people as the country steps up measures to fight coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Mehnaz said, “There is a kitchen nearby where we can cook food. We pay 4 for using the facility for half-and-hour and 16 for one hour. Today, we don’t have to cook at all. I’m told that we will be served food daily, both in the morning and evening.”

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) on Saturday directed all the non-government organisations running its 190 plus shelter homes in the national capital to ensure cook meal being served to people twice a day starting from Sunday. A DUSIB official said, “All shelter homes management agencies have been ordered to supply food till April 5. We will pay them 20 per meal. We will review the situation later on.”

A majority of people living in these shelter homes are daily wage workers. But with the government shutting down malls, gyms, sports facilities, etc., and several market associations announcing a shutdown for three days or till March 31 in a move to contain the spread of Covid-19, a large number of them are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“The main issue is of food. When we don’t have work, how will we feed our families?” said Rupa ( 23), who works as a waste collection and lives at the shelter home at ISBT Sarai Kale Khan. Rupa, who has a two-year-old son, said her husband, who works as a sanitation worker in a local market, has not been paid for the past four days.

“We both used to earn 300 per day. But for the past four days, we don’t have any money. We have somehow managed it so far. But now, we are told that we don’t have to worry about the food,” she said.

The Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), which runs 60 government shelter homes in Delhi, had started the preparations for serving meals on Sunday a day in advance. Rajesh, director of SPYM, said that they placed order for 13,000kg of rice, 3,000kg of dal and other essential items.

A team on 40-people at SPYM cooked and delivered the meals at 60 shelters on Sunday. “We have procured vegetables like pumkins, beans, etc., which we can use in the next few days. We have ordered 500kg of four-five types of vegetables to meet the requirement. Due to ‘Janta Curfew’, we had procured all these things on Saturday. Today, we have served rice-rajma at all our centres, as it was the first day. In the next few days, things will be streamlined,” he said.

Vinay K Stephen, chief functionary of Sadik Masih Medical Social Servant Society (SMMSSS) which runs 45 shelter homes, said that there were some teething problems on day one. “The order came yesterday and today everything is shut. So we have managed to supply food at all the centres today. We got a bit late in serving food. From tomorrow onwards, we are planning to have a central kitchen so that food can be supplied to all centres on time. We served puri-sabzi at some centres and rice and dal at others,” said Stephen.

Jyoti, who lives with her family at the Sarai Kale Khan shelter home and works as a teacher with in an NGO, said, “People here don’t know why everything is shut. I have told them to keep their hands clean but they don’t listen. Almost all the people at this shelter home have no source of income left. It is impossible for them to feed their family. This (meals twice a day) is a big relief.”

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