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Individuals, youth groups rise to occasion, distribute food during lock down to save innumerable lives

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Lockdown  Food distribution  Social Work  Bhopal  Coronavirus  Poverty  Hunger  Madhya Pradesh  Muslim youths




Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL: The lock down due to Coronavirus was unprecedented and it hit the poor and working class, the most. Within days, many people in every city ran out of money and were unable to feed their familes.

The daily wage labourers, the elderly living alone, the sick, those with no savings faced a terrible situation. However, sensing the enormity of the problem, many individuals and youth groups came out and ensured that food was distributed in such localities that it reached those who neither had any resources, nor money and were starving.

It is these efforts--individual, coordinated and the community kitchens run by youths, that ensured that a large number of needy people in urban areas did not starve and survived through the unprecedented crisis.

In Bhopal, youths involved in social work, had begun getting information that many people had nothing to eat, and this was the situation barely days after the first lock down was announced. "Mostly people who had a daily earning, were worst affected as they had never anticipated such a situation.

"There was huge crisis and hence the need was to do something immediate. We were aware of situation in certain localities and slum clusters where we had done social work earlier. So we decided to do our bit, started distributing food packets. But we didn't have huge resources and hence we also made appeal to people to focus on this issue", says a social worker involved in food distribution.

 "There were  also people including workers from other cities stuck here who too were in a dire situation. Some people helped, came out and also used their resources to arrange and distribute food". "After a couple of days, we realised it was not enough and hence, we went for supplying food kits--each kit having flour, rice, masalas, salt, milk sachets, soap etc, so that it could last a week or fortnight", the social worker adds.

Community kitchens and coordination among groups 

Activist Rolly Shivhare says that in Bhopal, many people started community kitchens and this helped tackle the situation in a big way. "The scale of operations vary from group to group and person to person. But each effort matters a lot. The situation was worrying in slums, especially, where kids were not getting proper nutrition".

"We even came to know about instances like a woman who used to sell vegetables but as everything was shut, she had nothing in her house and was giving 'aata ghol' to her child. This was heartbreaking. So we thought about it and added 'dalia' and milk".

Shivhare says that many youths came out as volunteers and did immense work. "As migrant workers started coming, the situation became even more difficult. So people coordinated, like one group Usama from Biryani Express would provide food, the other would provide water bottles like Amir from Sanchi Dhaba or give a packet containing biscuits, sattu, bread or similar items so that the families who were walking for hundreds of kilometers in this intense heat", says Shivhare who is associated with the group, Aawaj.

"Also, I must mention that Muslim youths played a huge role in Bhopal, running community kitchens as well as providing food, from the very beginning. This continues even now and on highways around the city, migrant workers and their families who are passing by in large numbers, are being helped", she adds. 

After the initiative is taken, citizens come forward and extend help

Insani Biradiri had started the community kitchen in the first lock down and consistently provided food. "As people realised that the food was being distributed and help was reaching the needy, many people came forward to help", says Abid Muhammad Khan, who has been actively involved in the work for the last two months.

Activists say that many youngsters came out on their own, would get food prepared--vegetable pulao or khichdi and distribute in slums or to the needy. Surveys were conducted to find out the quantity need in a locality and even though it needs a huge effort, relief could reach a large number of people though the problem of lack of funds remains a major issue.

They also mention how Gurdwaras' provided help and food packets. In fact, when they were informed about the need for more food in particular areas, they would raise the number of packets. But the youths joined hands to make puris, sabzi and rice so that no one was overburdened. It all needed coordination and dedication, and many self-motivated youth came out to help.

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.