Updated: May 13, 2021 1:14:22 am
Karnataka’s scheme to distribute free food to the needy during the lockdown saw some hiccups on its first day Wednesday, with beneficiaries in Bengaluru complaining they were asked to produce an identity proof.
However, hours later, BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta announced that food packets would be distributed to everyone, without the need for ID documents.
Veena S A, a transwoman activist who visited the Indira Canteen in Binnypete area in Bengaluru, said it was disturbing to know that people had to produce documents to get free food. “The lockdown has affected the livelihood of many, especially those who earned daily wages. While we expected this scheme to help such people, the staff insisting on an ID card or mobile number is unacceptable, as it furthers marginalises the deprived,” she said.
However, Veena said the officials in charge later agreed to distribute the food packets without documents. “They were worried their higher-ups would pull them up for giving away food without record. Nonetheless, they consented to our demand by just noting down names of those who collected the food. By evening, they provided food to nearly 200 out of the total 450 who came without ID papers,” Veena added.
Some beneficiaries said officials clicked their pictures.
A vegetable vendor from Adugodi area said, “I could afford meals while my business was running normally. Now that I have come here, the BBMP’s system of clicking our pictures and noting down details has made me feel uncomfortable.”
Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar too accused the BBMP of “humiliating the working class”. “I urge the BJP govt to give the poor the best possible support during the lockdown — but do it in a manner that does not compromise with human dignity,” he said.
Hours later, on Wednesday evening, BBMP chief Gupta announced that food packets would be distributed to all beneficiaries.
A statement from the BBMP issued by Gupta read, “Noticing the trouble faced by the beneficiaries in obtaining the food packets, it has been clarified that identification proofs are not mandatory. The beneficiaries can obtain the food packets without any identification proof till 24 May, the end of lockdown in the city.”
Later in the evening, Shivakumar welcomed the local body’s move, but criticised the BJP-led government in the state, saying it ‘framing such rules showed its anti-poor mindset’.
Further, he urged workers of his party to check daily if the poor were being harassed or humiliated while accepting food at Indira Canteens.
Earlier on Tuesday, announcing the scheme, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had said, “To ease hardships that come with the strict restrictions, three free meals will be made available to the poor, migrants and workers in need, at Indira Canteens in Bengaluru and across the state till May 24.”
While the BBMP was put in charge of the scheme within Bengaluru city limits, in other districts, the government entrusted the Department of Municipal Administration with the job.
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