Footfall at langars increase as people feel the pinch of inflation

For many blue-collar workers community kitchens only source of sustenance

Updated - June 07, 2022 06:27 pm IST

Published - June 06, 2022 11:40 pm IST

A community kitchen in New Delhi

A community kitchen in New Delhi | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA


Sonu, a manual labourer from Rajasthan, migrated to Delhi five years ago. Till four months ago, Mr. Sonu, 29, who lives in a shanty at Kashmere Gate, cooked his own meals. Even during the multiple waves of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, he found odd jobs that paid him just enough to keep him afloat. However, over the past four months, while Mr. Sonu’s daily wages have remained more or less the same — ₹250 - ₹300 — he has been unable to afford two square meals.

He now has his three meals at the nearest langar, or free community kitchens, he finds during his day job. “Whenever I get work around Jama Masjid, I eat at Matia Mahal and Chandni Chowk Gurudwara. Usually, I'm around Kashmere Gate so I have food at Hanuman Mandir,” he added.

Similarly, Ramu, 42, who cooks at small-time dhabas for a living, has all his three meals at the Gurudwaras of Kashmere Gate, which was not the case five months ago.

“Of the ₹350 roughly that I make in a day, I used to spend ₹100 - ₹150 on my three meals. For ₹30 I used to get four rotis and a vegetable. But now the same plate costs me ₹40 after the prices of vegetables, cooking oil etc. went up. Since I can’t spend half of my wages on food, I’ve been having my meals at Gurudwaras in Kashmere Gate,” said Ramu.

It was not just these two, several blue-collar workers engaged in different occupations in the Capital — fruit vendors, electricians, auto drivers — said they were visiting free community kitchens more frequently than they ever had before.

Community kitchens

This impression was confirmed when The Hindu spoke to several organisers running these free community kitchens.

Jagdip Singh Kahlon, general secretary, Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, said, “A year ago, 40,000 people used to come for the langar daily. These days we’re getting around 1,00,000 visitors for our langars on a daily basis.”

Mr. Kahlon added, “Prices of essential and food items have risen but since we receive enough support through donations to help us provide good quality food to everyone who comes to our doors.”

Vrajendra Nandan Das, National Director of Communications at ISKCON temple in East of Kailash, said that there has been an increase in footfall at their free community kitchen since March this year.

“We continue to procure food stocks even as their prices are going up,” Mr. Das said adding, that the free kitchen services were run based on the support of financial donations as well as from the stocks — grain, pulses and vegetables — offered to the temple by donors regularly.

Good samaritans

Not just those running large-scale langars, several good samaritans who have come forward to provide free food to those who can’t afford two square meals a day, say that the queues of people waiting to receive food have increased over the past few months.

“Till a few months ago around 100 people would come to have food. Now, more than 300 people turn up every day,” said Chandan Arora, a manager at a departmental store in Dwarka. He distributes free food among the lower-income groups near Dashrath Puri metro station with the help of a few other like-minded citizens.

He said that while the number of donors had not increased, the volume of donations had risen slightly. “Now many donors sponsor meals for many days at a stretch,” he added.

Earlier, his team would prepare 50 kg of dal and rice; now they prepare double the quantity to meet the demand. “So far, we have successfully ensured adequate food supply,” he said. To battle the offset of inflation, Mr. Arora said he is now purchasing rice of inferior quality, one that sells for ₹ 35 a kilo instead of the variant that sold for ₹50 a kilo, which he used to buy earlier.

Another such common citizen who is doing all within his means to feed the hungry is Vimal Kumar. Along with his team, Mr. Kumar feeds around 50 people near the Kashmere Gate bus stand.

He says now at least 350 people line up for food that he and his team prepare and distribute. Mr. Kumar said with limited funds and more people to feed, sustaining the charitable service will is becoming difficult.

“Refined oil that cost ₹100 now costs ₹200, the price of Rajma is up from ₹80 to ₹160 a kilo,” he said adding that to meet the expenses, he has been forced to cut down the use of multiple or expensive vegetables.

“We usually serve dals like masoor, chana and rajma, vegetables like potatoes and cauliflower, and tandoori roti because vegetables are becoming expensive,” Mr. Kumar said.

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