Provide 10 lakh ‘Shiv Bhojan Thalis’ for the poor, open community kitchens for migrant labourers, delegation appeals minister
Geetanjali Minhas | June 4, 2021 | Mumbai
With the second wave of Covid-19 hitting migrant labourers hard, a delegation of the Working People’s Charter (WPC) met Maharashtra Food and Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal urging him to set up community kitchens.
With the unorganised sector being impacted due to the lockdown and the second wave-led restrictions further making the lives of daily wagers difficult due to continuing loss of income, there is rise in food poverty and hunger.
The delegation urged the minister to implement the supreme court’s order of May 24 regarding the setting up of community kitchens by state governments for migrant workers. Such community kitchens can provide affordable nutritious meals at locations near informal manufacturing hubs and clusters.
Advocate Vinod Shetty, director, ACORN Foundation, which runs a recyclers’ collective in Dharavi, Bilal Khan from GBGBA, Madhuri Jalmulvar of Kashtakari Sangharsh Mahasangh and Shweta Damle of HALWA also provided a list of 18 locations in Mumbai that need community kitchens for distressed migrant workers facing loss of livelihood.
At the start of second wave-led lockdown the state government had announced it would provide 2 lakh ‘Shiv Bhojans’. For the number of hungry mouths that need food that initiative has proved insufficient. While the first wave saw huge labour exodus, during the second wave, many migrant labourers chose to stay back as there were no jobs available in villages. Most migrant workers come from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, and the second wave has created havoc in villages too. With schools shut, many families of migrant and unorganised workers are not able to feed their children, as schools are closed and no mid-day meals are provided to students.
“With no jobs available in construction, loading, unloading and as recyclers to naka workers who would otherwise earn Rs 200-300 a day, we have asked for increasing Shiv Bhojan Thalis to at least 10 lakh immediately. We have identified 18 locations where community kitchens can be immediately started. Even the supreme court has ordered the states to set up community kitchens and asking every state to come up with a plan of how it will be done. Why is it difficult to make food available to the destitute, totally marginalised and poor of the country? It is not that food has to be provided to the entire country. The need is urgent in anticipation of a third wave and the monsoon season,” said Shetty.
He says that with a huge amount of food rotting in the Food Corporation of India storehouse, the centre must provide food grains and support community kitchens.
The delegation asked the government to speed up the distribution of free rations to those without documentation. The delegation also pointed to the supreme court order pertaining to the distribution of dry ration and setting up of community kitchens urgently by state governments, apart from the existing welfare schemes under the Disaster Management Act.
Bhujbal assured them that he was in agreement with the appeal and recommend the same to the state’s chief secretary, Sitaram Kunte, the activists said. Now they would urge Kunte to formalise the same.
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