For the last 45 days, Kolkata’s gurudwaras have been ensuring that thousands of people don’t go hungry by distributing food and rations among the city’s poorest. By their estimate, they have distributed over 4 lakh meals so far.
After the city’s administration set up temporary shelters for the homeless and poor during the lockdown, they reached out to Satnam Singh Ahluwalia, who is General Secretary of the Behala Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee (BGPC) and chairman of Indian Humanitarian Assistance (IHA) Foundation. Authorities asked if food could be provided, and the group jumped into action.
“Now more than ever, the need of the hour is to help each other. We understand the need for social distancing, but this should not lead to us distancing ourselves from humanity and brotherhood towards the people who are worst-hit,” Alhuwalia said in a telephonic interview.
Apart from providing lunch and dinner, the gurudwaras have also been supplying rations to those who have the facilities to cook their own food.
While the BGPC has ensured the meals are cooked daily, private security agency Kolkata Response Group (KRG) delivered them using four mobile units.
“We are trying to reach out to as many people as possible. We have pledged not to let anyone go hungry. If we come to know that someone needs food or medicine, we try our best to deliver it to them and plan on continuing it even if the lockdown gets extended,” Ahluwalia told indianexpress.com.
A special helpline was set up by the task force team for people to get in touch with them directly. After verification and assessing the situation, the team sends volunteers with either cooked meals or dry rations. After the holy month of Ramzan started, the team said it distributed items needed for sehri and iftar as well.
They are also ensuring tea and biscuits are provided to security guards, police personnel, hospitals and KMC staff on duty.
“We thought this was the least we could do. As a mark of respect and saluting them for their relentless services, we thought we should do this to express our gratitude,” Ahluwalia said.
The community kitchen is preparing a variety of dishes daily for two meals. They range from staples like rice and rotis, to dishes like aloo matar, kala chola, kheer and custard.
“The gurudwara kitchens are being operated by roughly 15 members daily and a few women from the neighbourhood drop by for an hour just to make rotis. We are ensuring proper hygiene and following social distancing protocols while preparing food,” Ahluwalia said.
Ahluwalia said the gurudwara in Behala preparing food for around 4,000 people daily, while another in Howrah’s Santragachi is serving meals to another 1,000. The team said it is aiding another 1,500 in the Diamond Harbour and South 24 Parganas areas.
When asked about how the team was functioning without any hurdles, Ahluwalia said the IHA Foundation had a wide network of volunteers across the city and the suburbs. He said that the special task force receives information from the police control room and KMC on where their services are required.
“We have been feeding everyone from elderly people to little children, and even providing baby food. It’s gratifying to see that they are happy and we have been able to help them,” he said.
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