The Congress government in Rajasthan has launched massive efforts for supplying cooked food and dry rations to the poor and destitute, besides ensuring food security for migrant labourers stranded in several towns after being deprived of their livelihood during the lockdown, which has been extended till May 3. The allocations were made from a package announced at the start of lockdown.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s much-publicised assurance that “no one will go to bed hungry” has prompted the administration in several districts to devise their own strategies for extending relief to poor and marginalised people. From ‘Jan Sambal kits’ in Udaipur and ‘Janata Rasoi Kendra’ in Bikaner to the ‘wheat bank’ in Kota, the efforts have brought two square meals a day to hungry persons.
1.41 crore families
Mr. Gehlot, who had announced a ₹2,000 crore package for supporting disadvantaged people on March 23, said over a video conference with journalists here that 1 lakh food packets were being distributed everyday in Jaipur alone. The package is expected to benefit 1.41 crore families in the State.
Residents of slum colonies in Jaipur’s Jhalana institutional area as well as labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal residing in the Sitapura and Ramchandrapura industrial areas are among the beneficiaries of the State government’s relief measures. After a survey by the Labour Department found 10,000 industrial labourers in the city, the administration started supplying 5,000 kits of dry rations to them.
Auto rickshaw driver Dhanraj Mali, 48, sitting at home without work during the lockdown, told The Hindu that the food assistance received from the government was the only source of sustenance for his family of six. Labourer Afroz Alam, 35, from Bihar’s Kaimur district, who has been rendered jobless, said he could not leave the city when the lockdown was enforced, and that he was getting food from Women & Child Department’s van twice a day.
‘As individuals involved’
Government officials taking the pick-up trucks to different localities in the State capital said the food packets were arranged mostly with the help of donors and institutions. “We try to find the people not covered in the social security schemes and give them food. This is not just a government action... We as individuals are also involved. We derive [an] immense satisfaction,” an official said.
In Udaipur district, the mammoth task of providing food to everyone is performed by preparing long lists and matching them with distress calls received at the helpline. District Supply Officer Jyoti Kakwani said free kits are being supplied to needy families at their doorstep — they comprised 10 kg of wheat flour, 3 kg of pulses, 200 ml oil and 1 kg of salt, which was sufficient for a fortnight.
The “wheat bank” established in Kota district’s Kanwas block is supported by the farmers harvesting their Rabi crops, who have contributed a portion of their produce. Sub-Divisional Officer Rajesh Daga said 114 quintals of wheat was so far stored for five villages and the committees headed by Sarpanches had been authorised to identify the beneficiaries of the bank.
While the P.B.M. Government Hospital’s Help Committee in Bikaner is assisting the district administration in the preparation of nutritious food at a community kitchen, Congress leaders Subhash Maharia in Sikar and Maqbool Mandelia in Churu have mobilised resources in their constituencies to supplement the government’s relief efforts. Both of them had lost in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Jaipur Collector Joga Ram has issued an order for industrial labour, asking industry owners to make the payment of wages to workers and render help in arranging food and other provisions for them through industrial associations. Jaipur Smart City Project’s CEO Lok Bandhu has since inspected the kitchens in the city to ensure that they cook food of good quality.
In a significant order, the State government has banned photography during the distribution of food packets and ration among the needy. “The food supply should be treated as a service and should not be made a medium of publicity and competition,” the order stated, while also asking the beneficiaries to comply with social distancing norms when they get the food.