Many unaware of govt. scheme providing free food at shelters

Caretakers say they have had to turn away people as there was insufficient food

Several homeless people are not aware of the Delhi government’s scheme which provides for free food at night shelters.

On Saturday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced the scheme in light of the COVID-19 outbreak so that anyone could get food from the 220 government-run night shelters across the city. A ground reality check by The Hindu at four night shelters, however, revealed many shortcomings.

While food was not delivered at the night shelter next to gate number 1 of AIIMS in the afternoon, the other three complained that food was delivered late. Inhabitants and caretakers of the four shelters admitted that the food was less and every day 10 to 30 people who came to the facility had to return without food.

Moreover, multiple homeless people said they were unaware of the scheme. On Tuesday evening, Mr. Kejriwal said that they have noticed that the number of people at night shelters has been increasing since the programme’s launch. “We will make arrangements for food to be distributed at more locations soon,” he added.

Eight-year-old Rani Kumar from Bihar, who sleeps near a lift outside gate number 1 of AIIMS, was surviving only on biscuits on Tuesday.“I have eaten only biscuits,” she said, standing outside night shelter number 584. “Yesterday there was dal chawal, but today they did not supply food here,” said Rani, who had come with her family to Delhi for her elder brother’s treatment.

Inside the shelter, Ajay Kumar, 35, and his wife, who has a kidney problem, is sharing chiwda mixed with water and sugar in a steel bowl. “They did not give us food today and even my son is eating this,” he said.

Sixty-year-old Ameena Khatun from Bihar, who stays in a shack opposite Sai Mandir on Lodi Road, had to make roti and eat it with salt. “I went there [night shelter], but they said the food was finished,” she said.

Earlier, people who visited the temple gave them food, but with the temple shut since last Wednesday due to the COVID-19 lockdown, there have been hardly any visitors.

She said that her two grandchildren only had biscuits since morning.

“Now I will go there [night shelter] at 8 p.m. and if we get subzi, then I will feed them,” she added.

Several families near her shack said that they were not informed that the night shelter, which is hardly 300 metres from their settlement, was distributing food for free. “I came to know about it just now,” Ms. Khatun said.

At the night shelter, Rukmini Devi, 42, who was washing utensils, said that many people went back hungry. “Everyone at the night shelter got food, but at least 15 from outside didn’t get food today. Yesterday [Monday] around 25 people came and left without eating as there was no food,” she said.

At the Safdarjung Airport Flyover night shelter too people said that about 20 people returned without food. “There was no oil, masala, or spice in the curry [soya bean and potato] and it was very watery. It was like the food you give to people who are ill,” said Muskaan, 15, who stays at the night shelter.

Bipin Rai, member of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, which runs the night shelters, told The Hindu that they had just launched the initiative and would take days to iron out all the glitches.

“We have just started delivering food and it is the third day. We are also figuring out how much food is needed and we are increasing the quantity so that nobody goes without food.”

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 3:46:26 PM |

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