Amma Unavagam to the rescue of daily wagers, homeless

People at the Amma canteen at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.   | Photo Credit: M_PERIASAMY

P. Kannan, a native of Sowripalayam, is one among the small crowd waiting outside the budget canteen, Amma Unavagam, near the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.

He will have to wait for a while till the clock strikes noon to have his lunch. It is his only source of food in the city, which is under lockdown as part of the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 virus.

“This is where I’ve come to have food because every other restaurant or eatery is closed, including the place where I used to work,” says the casual labourer who usually works in kitchen.

Sixty-seven-year-old Saibaba Colony resident Anwar Basha too waits for the shutter to open. The widower who stays alone usually has his lunch at the Amma Unavagam. And, on Wednesday, too he made it to the place.

“What if there’s no bus. I walked all the way to have lunch here as I usually do.”

For persons like S. Dhanasekar of Thoothukudi the Coimbatore Corporation’s decision to keep open the budget canteens has come as relief. “I’m stuck here since Tuesday evening as inter-district bus service is stopped. I wanted to make it home from Mettupalayam, where I was on an errand, before the lockdown but could not.”

With none to turn to in the district, he spent the night at a bus stand and used public convenience facility to refresh. “The decision to keep open the canteen is good for two reasons – one that it is a source of food and, two, at an affordable cost.”

Kannan’s friend J. Kumar, also a daily wager who sleeps at work place, says he wants the administration to provide food to the homeless. “If the collector takes homeless persons like me to a hall or some place and provide food, he can completely enforce lockdown. This will prevent persons like me from walking on streets for food and stop people from dying of hunger.”

The head of the self-help group that runs the Amma Unavagam says since Wednesday morning, the Corporation has asked the groups that run the eight canteens to increase the quantity of food served.

Increased demand

Usually the canteens cook 1,200 idlis for breakfast for 300 persons at four a person. It is now 1,900 to 2,000 idlis depending on the canteen.

Likewise, the quantity of food cooked for lunch has increased. And, a part of the food cooked in excess is for the Corporation’s conservancy workers, the head adds.

A Corporation officer says the civic body has asked the groups managing the canteens to take a call on providing dinner as well depending on the number of persons waiting. The budget canteens do not usually serve dinner but given the unprecedented circumstances, the civic body has asked them to.

But the extraordinary situation has not changed something that the self-help groups encounter everyday: that of tipplers frequenting the place. A group member says she is surprised to find people managing to find liquor even though the State Government says it has ordered the closure of liquor outlets.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 4:55:00 AM |

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