Delhi

Divine service: ISKCON temple in Dwarka feeds lakhs of poor

(Clockwise from left) Food being prepared at the ISCKON makeshift kitchens; e-rickshaws after collecting barrels of readied food and an e-rickshaw being sanitised before it is allowed to enter the ground

(Clockwise from left) Food being prepared at the ISCKON makeshift kitchens; e-rickshaws after collecting barrels of readied food and an e-rickshaw being sanitised before it is allowed to enter the ground | Photo Credit: V_V_KRISHNAN

On the approach road to the ISKCON temple in Dwarka, a serpentine queue of e-rickshaws moves slowly through a makeshift checkpost manned by police personnel and government officials.

The checkposts, which have come up at various locations near the temple, are meant to sanitise the e-rickshaws, check the drivers’ temperature and issue slips mentioning the destinations the vehicles are expected to reach, carrying the cooked food.

The ISKCON  administration has been feeding scores of poor people since the lockdown was announced. The initiative is being supported by the Delhi government, which takes care of the logistics and administration.

The temple is feeding around 4 lakh to 4.5 lakh people daily, said Piyush Goyal, chairman of ISKCON , Dwarka, adding that people from seven Assembly constituencies in South Delhi district are being fed by the temple administration.

“Until now the entire cost has been borne by ISKCON  itself. Now that the lockdown has been extended, the Delhi government has offered to pay a subsidised amount to us. We are working closely with the government as norms like social distancing during food distribution need to be adhered to and that can be enforced by government officials,” said Mr. Goyal.

The food, delivered twice a day, is being distributed at approximately 200 localities in the district, officials said.

“Our major focus is on areas like Uttam Nagar, Vikaspuri and Matiala, as there are a lot of slums there and several migrant workers also stay there,” said R.K. Sharma, the nodal officer of Hunger Relief Cell, South West.

New Delhi, 15/04/2020: One of the despatch area in the large temporary kitchen, COVID-19 LOCKDOWN - ISKCON's kitchen at Dwarka, one of the largest which handles both cooking and distribution to feed 260,000 people a day. Over 100 cooks prepare food which is packed into large containers and driven by 150 E Rickshaws under the supervision of 500 officials distribute cooked food to over 125 locations of the Delhi Government. Photo: V. V. Krishnan / The Hindu (For The Weekend Special)

New Delhi, 15/04/2020: One of the despatch area in the large temporary kitchen, COVID-19 LOCKDOWN - ISKCON's kitchen at Dwarka, one of the largest which handles both cooking and distribution to feed 260,000 people a day. Over 100 cooks prepare food which is packed into large containers and driven by 150 E Rickshaws under the supervision of 500 officials distribute cooked food to over 125 locations of the Delhi Government. Photo: V. V. Krishnan / The Hindu (For The Weekend Special)

 

A vacant ground opposite the temple has been allocated for two separate tents where a team of cooks prepare rice and puris. The e-rickshaws, after collecting their respective slips, enter the ground, go through one more round of sanitisation and then collect the barrels of food kept ready by another set of workers.

Drone monitoring

While volunteers are seen making regular announcements on loudspeakers, asking everyone present to maintain social distancing and use masks, drones are also seen hovering over the ground .

“We get real-time images from the drones and with the help of that we can ensure that all norms are followed. The e-rickshaws have also been provided with GPS so that we can track them and ensure that they reach the correct destination,” said Mr. Sharma.

The e-rickshaw drivers then leave for their destinations where volunteers are already stationed to distribute the food. People are asked to bring their own utensils to receive their share. They avoid distributing food packets as that leads to unnecessary littering on the roads.

Healthy food

New Delhi, 15/04/2020: An E Rickshaw and its driver being disinfected even as he enters to collect food - COVID-19 LOCKDOWN - ISKCON's kitchen at Dwarka, one of the largest which handles both cooking and distribution to feed 260,000 people a day. Over 100 cooks prepare food which is packed into large containers and driven by 150 E Rickshaws under the supervision of 500 officials distribute cooked food to over 125 locations of the Delhi Government. Photo: V. V. Krishnan / The Hindu (For The Weekend Special)

New Delhi, 15/04/2020: An E Rickshaw and its driver being disinfected even as he enters to collect food - COVID-19 LOCKDOWN - ISKCON's kitchen at Dwarka, one of the largest which handles both cooking and distribution to feed 260,000 people a day. Over 100 cooks prepare food which is packed into large containers and driven by 150 E Rickshaws under the supervision of 500 officials distribute cooked food to over 125 locations of the Delhi Government. Photo: V. V. Krishnan / The Hindu (For The Weekend Special)

 

In the parking area of a building adjacent to the temple, a massive kitchen has been set up where several people are engaged in cooking three types of pulses and vegetables.

“We aim to send healthy food to people to ensure a better immune system. Even when the food is distributed, the volunteers ensure that social distancing is maintained. While food for around 2.5 lakh people is the demand from the State government, for at least another 50-70 locations, the MLAs are taking food directly from us,” said Mr. Goyal.

For the e-rickshaw drivers, delivering food twice a day means their income is not halted as a result of the lockdown.

Rajkishore Mehto , a resident of the Kakrola area, said, “Earlier I used to earn around ₹700 per day and now after delivering food twice I earn approximately ₹400. But this is still better than dying hungry. When the lockdown was announced, we ran out of work overnight. I have a family of four to sustain and this work has helped me immensely.”

While a 60-member team from the Delhi government is stationed at the temple to ensure smooth functioning of the entire process, another 700-800 officials are on the field in this particular district, Mr. Sharma said.

Coordination with agencies

New Delhi, 15/04/2020: Rice being prepared in large vessels - COVID-19 LOCKDOWN - ISKCON's kitchen at Dwarka, one of the largest which handles both cooking and distribution to feed 260,000 people a day. Over 100 cooks prepare food which is packed into large containers and driven by 150 E Rickshaws under the supervision of 500 officials distribute cooked food to over 125 locations of the Delhi Government. Photo: V. V. Krishnan / The Hindu (For The Weekend Special)

New Delhi, 15/04/2020: Rice being prepared in large vessels - COVID-19 LOCKDOWN - ISKCON's kitchen at Dwarka, one of the largest which handles both cooking and distribution to feed 260,000 people a day. Over 100 cooks prepare food which is packed into large containers and driven by 150 E Rickshaws under the supervision of 500 officials distribute cooked food to over 125 locations of the Delhi Government. Photo: V. V. Krishnan / The Hindu (For The Weekend Special)

 

In order to keep the kitchen and the delivery system well-oiled and running, coordination between various government agencies is taking place on a daily basis, said Mr. Sharma.

“We also have a helpline centre here and we get distress calls from across the country. The calls from outside the city are redirected to the authorities concerned, while those from within the city are attended to and requisite help is provided,” added Mr. Sharma.

Asked about the kind of distress calls they receive, he said most of them pertain to people asking for ration and food. Some even ask questions such as availability of transportation facilities or when the trains will start running, which the officers are obviously are not able to respond to.

If it’s a ration-related call, they either attend it themselves or give details about the particular district contact person, said Mr. Sharma.


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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 8:25:40 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/divine-service/article31384031.ece