At night shelters, food for most but not for all

Despite government increasing the quantity of food, it is proving inadequate

Days after the Delhi government started distributing free lunch and dinner at its 220-odd night shelters, in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, the programme drew mixed response from the homeless.

The authorities, meanwhile, stated that they have increased the amount of food being served at these shelters. Though the food sufficed for those in the three-night shelters, The Hindu visited, people and caretakers complained that more food is needed to serve homeless people who come to the shelter for just food.

On Saturday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced that due to the pandemic, the government-run night shelters are open for all and would provide food for anyone.

“Yesterday [Wednesday] night, on Lodi Road, dal chawal was distributed at 11.30 p.m. I slept off by then and in the morning, we couldn’t eat it and had to throw it away,” said 55-year-old Jameela Khatun. “I beg at the mandir, but now that is also closed due to the disease. What will we do,” she asked.

The delay, a caretaker said, was due to miscommunication. “The food was mistakenly dropped off at AIIMS last night and then we had to get it from there and that caused the delay,” he said. Though the food was inadequate for all those who came from outside, the quantity have increased, he said.

Food portion

“Everyday we are increasing the number of meals we are serving. Today, we gave lunch to more than 20,000 people in our night shelters,” Bipin Rai, a member of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which runs the night shelters, said.

“Also the Chief Minister has said that we will start ward-level distribution of food to more than one lakh people everyday and the DUSIB will be part of this programme too,” he added.

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of people lined up for free lunch at a night shelter in Yamuna Pushta in east Delhi. But people sat close to each other and some complained that the portion of food being served was less. “The quantity is so less that even a child’s stomach would not be filled with this,” said a person in his forties.

Shoaib Khureshi, from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, who has been staying at a night shelter outside AIIMS for the last 15 days, had another grouse. “Khichdi was less yesterday [Wednesday]. Today it was more.”

A caretaker admitted that the food would never suffice as more people are flocking the tents during the curbs. “There are 11 tents [shelters] around AIIMS and food is never going to be enough, as a lot of people come from outside. But we served almost everyone that came to our tent for lunch. We have been getting more food for the last two days,” he said.

Near a night shelter in INA, a father of five children from Sitapur said he could not sell bamboo furniture for the last five days, and hence has to depend on food from the night shelters. “The government should give food to everyone who lives in slums. What else will we do? Police don’t allow us to go out and sell our things,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:26:55 AM |

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