The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has distributed 1.84 crore food packets – a number that exceeds the city’s population of 1.25 crore, according to the 2011 census – in 42 days between March 30 and May 10. According to the BMC data, the civic body had started food distribution through its community kitchens set up in each of the 24 wards in the city.
The demand for food packets has seen a steady increase since March 30, when the BMC first distributed 14,540 food packets in a day.
Data shows that maximum 28.64 lakh food packets were distributed in M-east (Govandi, Mankhurd) ward, followed by P-North (Malad) and H-East (Bandra east, Santa Cruz), where 21.07 lakh and 13.28 lakh food packets, respectively, were distributed. Officials said the civic body, with the help of NGOs and corporators, has been distributing about 7 lakh food packets (twice every day) serving 300 grams each of khichadi, pulav and biryani.
“Our aim is to provide food to all, especially in slums where many migrant labourers live. Our staff along with NGOs and corporators ensure that nobody gets left out. The food is tasted by our staff for quality before being distributed. In Ramzan, we have also distributed fruits and dry fruits for iftar and sehri,” Dr Sangeeta Hasnale, assistant municipal commissioner, Planning department, who is in-charge of the food distribution told The Indian Express.
About 70 per cent of the population in the M-East ward lives in slums, of which only 10-15 per cent people have savings, said Amita Bhide, dean of the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). “M-East is not the slums in the island city or Dharavi. Here the proportion of poor people is high. Anybody in this informal economy — street vendors, small businesses — have suffered and their shops are closed. Our survey in 2011 showed us barely 10 per cent of the people here had regular jobs,” said Bhide.
“In Govandi and Mankhurd, where majority of people live in slums, the demand for food packets has increased. In Govandi slums, most of them are auto and taxi drivers, daily wagers like plumbers, labourers… Many people are demanding food. After working for over 12 hours in a day, we still get complaints from people that they have not received food,” said Akhtar Qureshi, corporator from Govandi.
About 1,100 staff of BMC, with the help of 110 BEST buses, handle food distributions across city.
Civic body’s data shows that about 40 per cent of food packets were distributed in western suburbs, 31.58 per cent in eastern suburbs and 28.49 per cent in island city. Officials said the spike in demand of food packets was observed after first lockdown was extended from April 15.
Babli Rawat, general secretary of the Gharkamgar Molkarni Sagathana (GMS), said many names have slipped through the cracks because the distribution of food, left to the area corporators, has been flawed. “The corporators say they have distributed food and yet we have a list of 450 people who have got nothing. The corporators keep changing areas of distribution and if one area gets food one day, it’s next turn may be five days later. The distribution is also not devoid of politics,” Rawat said.
Bhide, however, said that corporators may have a much greater outreach than civil society but the part of the problem may also be creating an alternative delivery system.
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