With the month of Ramzan set to begin on Saturday, civic officials and NGOs are working on a roadmap to reach Muslim migrant workers and those who would be fasting.
Right now, ready-to-eat food packages are distributed for lunch and dinner in each ward. But during Ramzan, sehri or the meal before the fasting begins, is taken before 5 am. The fasting ends after 7 pm.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Jayashree Bhoj said they have received a list of those who would be fasting from wards across the city. “Since distributing food pre-dawn may not be possible, in the evening, we will be giving two packets of food to those on the list. One of the packets will contain a ready to eat meal and the other one will have five to six items, including a fruit, biscuits, lassi and dates,” she added.
Bhoj further said that in containment zones, phone numbers of fruit, vegetable and milk vendors have been collected and provisions will be made for them to sale their products at a fixed time.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner (Planning) Sangeeta Hasnale said: “We are also increasing the number of teams working on food delivery and distribution with specific teams to cater to the population that will be fasting.”
Stranded Muslim migrant workers, meanwhile, said that they have no idea how they are going to access packaged food for the pre-dawn sehri meal. “There is no money to buy dry ration. We queue up for food that is served at noon and in the evening. We are yet to get any information (from government agencies) about how to manage during Ramzan,” said Alam Shaikh, a worker in Andheri.
An official from the collector’s office said that many NGOs have been engaged in distribution of food. Kishore Bhamre, director of NGO Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children, which has been distributing food to vulnerable groups and in containment areas across Mumbai, is coordinating with BMC officials at M-East ward. “We have managed to get supplies of dry ration like chana, dates and nuts,” he added.
Corporator Rais Shaikh said that he has written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to provide the pre-dawn sehri meal and post-dawn iftaari to those in quarantine centres.
The office-bearers of the Hazrat Makdoom Shah Baba Mahimi Charity Trust has also written to the CM stating that since certain items like fruits would be necessary for those fasting, directions be issued to police and civic authorities to facilitate the sale of food items while following social distancing norms.
Police officers said they have roped in community leaders to inform people to stay indoors since there is a restriction on mass prayers.
The bylanes of Mohammad Ali Road, Bhendi Bazar and its adjoining Null Bazar wore an unfamiliar calm before Ramzan, a period when the whole locality would prep itself to host the month-long festival.
Afroz Shaikh (48), as she made her way to buy ayurvedic medicines for herself, said: “I was born here and in my entire life, I have never seen this area fall so silent before Ramzan – not even after riots or during riots.” Afroz is yet to buy supplies to make iftari dishes.
Khadija Munaaf (33), a resident of Nakhuda mohalla, said she will miss the “chehel pehel” that Ramzan brought with itself. “We’ll eat simple this Ramzan, as we haven’t stocked anything so far. Let’s see what fruits are available during the market hours,” said Munaaf, who will also miss the firni and malpua, which is especially sold at Bhendi Bazar during Ramzan.
The residents currently buy vegetables between 9 am to 11 am but the market timing will be extended up to 12.30 pm during Ramzan, officials said.
For Irfan Pudinawala, who runs a medical and general store providing home deliveries, the orders of cheese and ketchup have overtaken those for medicines in the last one week. “No one is ordering medicines and we are not delivering too,” said Irfan. His medical store is the only one open in the entire lane, the entry to which is barricaded, with a police van staying put at the entrance.
A few other residents have also taken to distributing ketchup, dates and sherbat bottle as part of the ration kit to the poor. Rizwan Chunawal (43), who lives at Chakla Street, said that they are only looking to cooking bare minimum this Ramzan. “How things will go will only be clear on the first Roza. This will be the first Ramzan with no prayers held at the mosque. Everyone will have to pray at their homes. Let’s see how that works out,” he added.
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