Mumbaikars open hearts, purse strings to help pavement dwellers, daily wagers

Succour: People rendered without food and jobs due to the lockdown queue up in front of a delivery cab of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind providing food packets in Mumbai.

Succour: People rendered without food and jobs due to the lockdown queue up in front of a delivery cab of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind providing food packets in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Food Packet Distribution drive has been reaching out to the underprivileged in 24 locations in the city since March 21

From collecting and dispersing food to approaching the State government with recommendations, Mumbaikars are doing their best to ease the pain of the underprivileged during the lockdown.

Ever since the novel coronavirus crisis broke out, numerous organisations and individuals have been distributing cooked or essential supplies to ensure that the underprivileged get at least two meals a day. The campaigns are being conducted at various locations all over the city in coordination with the authorities.

The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), a student Islamic organisation based in Mumbai, has started a Food Packet Distribution drive in 24 locations across the city since March 21. While the main objective of the initiative was to supply free food, many economically backward families were found to have run out of basic supplies, which the organisation has started providing.

Muzaffar Ansari, who is in charge of the initiative, said, “Our purpose is to serve people, as service to humanity is service to god in this critical time. With the help of the police, we distribute a minimum of 220 boxes of food and a maximum of 500 boxes every day.”

Over time, as people became aware of the initiative, donations started pouring in, with ₹1.60 lakh being donated from all over the city so far.

The JIH has also requested the State government to create a special fund in order to help labourers and workers in unorganised sectors. The letter, sent on March 22, urges Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to allocate some amount from the State budget and request industries to divert their corporate social responsibility donations of the first quarter to the pool.

“The State can also appeal to the people to chip in according to the requirement,” said Rizwan-ur-Rahman Khan, president of JIH Maharashtra.

Other than creation of the fund, the organisation suggested paying a compensation of ₹5,000 per month or providing food, water and shelter for free to approximately 3.65 crore unorganised daily wage earners in the State, starting from March. The letter also suggested that the compensation can be limited in the districts affected by COVID-19 that are under lockdown.

Similar initiatives are being conducted by other organisations in the city. The Raza Academy, for example, is providing food to the homeless who stay in railway stations.

“Food is a basic necessity for every human but due to the circumstances and conditions we live in currently, not everyone has access to this. We will be serving meals twice, at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. for those in need,” Raza Academy founder Mohammed Saeed Noori said.

The menu consists of dal, jeera rice, a vegetable, chapattis and kheer and the organisation aims to reach out to 200 people every day.

The Round Table India, an NGO, is delivering groceries to senior citizens staying alone in Mumbai.

Vickaash Agarwal, head volunteer for the Maharashtra region said, “We started our services on March 24 and our basic motive is to help senior citizens living alone because they can’t stand in long queues outside departmental stores.”

The NGO is providing commodities like sugar, pulses, rice, dough and vermicelli. While the delivery is free, the groceries are charged according to the senior citizen’s economic status.

Individuals pitch in

Individuals have also contributed to the cause. Prabjoth Singh, a Sion-based actor, has along with his family and friends, been distributing free food to the homeless since March 22. The idea came up when the Gurudwara Shri Dashmesh Darbar was closed to avoid large gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, due to which the homeless people could not get food from the langar.

What started as a small venture with two cooks to feed 30 to 40 people has now turned into a food packet distribution, with meals being handed out twice a day.

“We cook nearly 60 to 70 kg of rice every day that feeds 100 to 200 people. We earlier served meals from home but have now started to distribute packets in places near our locality. We requested the gurudwara committee to lend us their large stoves and woks to make the meals, which they granted. It has helped us.”

What is also heartening is that people from then relatively socio-economic strata are also doing their bit. Mr. Singh recalled how, when he recently went to buy vegetables for his initiative, a vendor asked him why he needed 20 kg of tomatoes.

“On learning why, he insisted that I take 10 kg free of cost,” Mr. Singh said.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 4:59:21 AM |

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