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Amid coronavirus lockdown, organisations, social groups step up to feed the needy

While the contributions have been generous, the challenge remains distribution of the package material in the face of a country-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: March 28, 2020 12:01:31 am
coronavirus india lockdown, mumbai lockdown coronavirus news, lockdown news, latest news, indian express Foods packet being distributed for Police, BMC and Hospital staff in Mumbai. (Express photos by Prashant Nadkar)

Even as the Centre has announced a relief package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore to provide a safety net to the poor who have been hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, several city-based non-governmental organisation (NGOs) and social groups have come forward to distribute relief material, including dry ration and sanitary napkins, among people at the risk of being left out of the beneficiaries’ list. The 21-day lockdown began on March 25.

In Mumbai, CORO India chairperson, Luis Miranda, said they were in talks with several local players including retail establishments, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and police to ensure relief packages – each weighing 20 kg containing 5 kg each of rice and wheat flour, besides soap, hand sanitisers and sanitary napkins – reach their beneficiaries.

On Friday, the NGO, which works for the marginalised and oppressed, delivered six metric tonnes of relief material to 400 families in the slums from Chembur to Vashi in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs. It expects to deliver 700 packages to their intended beneficiaries by the weekend.

Miranda, who founded IDFC Private Equity in 2002, said CORO India had set a target of collecting Rs 30 lakh and the contributions, so far, have poured in the range from Rs 100 to Rs 1 lakh. “At the moment, we are not aggressively pushing to raise more money. Raising money is easy and so is identifying our beneficiaries. The challenge really is the delivery of these packages. The retail industry is also facing challenges during the lockdown. Once they are settled, the supply chain will be eased. We will then ramp up our efforts,” he said.

Miranda added that people with ration cards may be able to avail the relief — about 800 million people will get free cereals and cooking gas apart from cash through direct transfers for three months — announced by the government. “But there are a lot of people who have no ration cards,” Miranda said.

Tanvi, a Delhi-based volunteer, said she has been receiving back-to-back calls on the Feeding India helpline from all across the country since March 25. With their volunteers now mostly working from home, the NGO – it works to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and food wastage in India — is now considering augmenting their strength so that no call is missed.

Feeding India, Tanvi said, has partnered Zomato food delivery and has so far raised Rs 12 crore to provide meals to the needy.

Several social organisations in the city have also begun distributing food packets among daily-wagers including labourers, autorickshaw drivers, people stranded at Kurla terminus and at slums.

Piyush Jain, Feeding India’s city head for Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, said as a part of their ‘feed the daily wager’ programme, they provide a weekly supply of rice, pulses and wheat flour to around 500-600 people. During the lockdown, he said, they expect a four-time increase in the number of people.

While they still awaited an ‘Essential Services Pass’ — passes issued to those providing essential services — Feeding India distributed 500 kg dry rations in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai on Friday, with police supervision, Jain said.

The NGO plans to cater to people at six locations including Goregaon, Jogeshwari, Nallasopara, Govani and Kharghar. “We will gradually increase the number of locations,” said Jain. He added that the NGO has also partnered with Grofers, online grocery delivery service, to provide the supplies in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

Haseeb Bhatkar, city president of Jamaat-i-Islami said, “We feel that as human beings it’s our responsibility to help the most vulnerable among us and appeal to all residents of Mumbai and Thane to join in our efforts. We also request the state government to put in place a safety net for those who have lost work during the period of the lockdown.”

The Jamaat-i-Islami along with Students Islamic Organisation of India and other organisations has, since March 22, distributed around 1,000 food packets in Madanpura, Jogeshwari, Andheri, Oshiwara, Kurla, Vikhroli, Mumbra and Kalyan.

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