In COVID times, ‘Annapurna’ provides succour

People line up at Annapurna canteen at Muslim Jung bridge in Hyderabad on Thursday.  

A few dozen people stand outside the Annapurna Centre near Pillar No 140 of PVNR Expressway and tuck into the simple food being distributed free by the civic organisation.

Two workers going on a two-wheeler with a UPVC window stop and and pick up a plate of food and join the others. If the Annapurna Centres are considered the bellwether of economic and social distress, Hyderabad is faring way better than the earlier lockdown.

“About 75,000 to 80,000 people are having food at the 245 Annapurna Centres across the city that includes lunch and dinner. The food is being distributed free from May 18,” said an official involved with the free food scheme that has become a lifeline for thousands in the city during economic distress.

The number of people having free food is less than half of what it was in 2020 when the queues outside the Annapurna Centres stretched across many building blocks in the city.

“In April-May of 2020, there were days when 1,60,000 people had lunch and dinner at the free food centres. We had 300 meal counters during that period,” says the person.

The number of people waiting to have free food distributed by good samaritans near KBR Park too has shown a decline in comparison to the first lockdown.

“I stay in Chowk area. We didn’t get the free rations promised by the government. I have not paid the rent for the past two months that totals ₹6,000. I have five children. How do I feed them?” asks Akhil Ahmed who is part of a painters’ guild.

At the ration shops where the quota of free rice has been increased to 15 kg for families holding food security ration card holders, there are queues through the day.

“Due to COVID-19 most of our cab drivers have no source of income and they have to pay EMIs and rent. The drivers don’t get free rations as they show ownership of a four-wheeler. There is an acute distress among the drivers and their families,” says Shaik Salauddin, general secretary of Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union. Rural areas have fared much worse due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

When a priest in Vikarabad developed symptoms, he was brought to Hyderabad for treatment. His wife borrowed up to ₹5 lakh to pay for the treatment but he passed away.

“Now, the lenders are harassing the woman who has two small children. When I called, she was crying for the duration of the call. While groceries were arranged by a local representative last month. They didn’t get this month,” says Sai Charan, who is co-ordinating COVID-19 relief using social media as a platform.

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 4:59:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/in-covid-times-annapurna-provides-succour/article34843982.ece

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