Inside slum lanes, a Delhi group helps quell hunger

The intiative, led by students and teachers of Delhi University along with lawyers and activists, feeds 800 slum dwellers a day

Published: Tuesday 26 May 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown millions — particularly the needy and poor — in the throes of hardships. More than two months into the nationwide lockdown, the hardest hit continue to be the migrant workers and daily wage earners, most of whom had little choice but take an arduous journey back home.

Some citizen groups, however, came to their rescue. Down to Earth met one such collective at Subhash Camp jhuggi, a slum in northeast Delhi, which is feeding the poor with fresh meals everyday.

The initiative, Mazdoor Dhaba, was started by students and teachers of the Delhi University and lawyers and activists.

“We realised the poor were devoid of the means to buy or access food after the lockdown. So we decided to cook for them. We have three different dhabas working in different areas of Delhi,” said Praveen Verma, a research scholar working with the initiative.

“The community kitchen started when one person from the Subhash Camp Jhuggi requested us to provide some food. We started by delivering 10 packets a day,” said Verma.

The group decided to cook inside the jhuggi to reduce the chances of virus contamination. They eventually started distributing 350 food packets with help from volunteers. Later on, the kitchen started to deliver food packets to other nearby jhuggis in Punjabi Bagh and Madipur as well.

“One of the volunteers told me that people in jhuggis survive on help and concessions from others. So we decided to help people in other jhuggis too,” Praveen added.

As of now, the Mazdoor Dhaba serves more than 800 food packets every day to slum dwellers. The group members go to each and every household to deliver the food. 

“Distributing food individually helps maintain dignity of these people. It is also safer than a queue system. The kitchen requires about Rs 10,000 a day. A number of fundraising platforms are helping us raise money. A group of volunteers from the community helps run the operation,” added Verma.

The group said they keep in check the nutritional value of the food being distributed and changing of the food menu is a collective opinion.  Raw products like rice, vegetables and fruits come from sellers living inside the jhuggi

The whole idea of the dhaba is to engage people in their own capacities and do something for the society, beyond the idea of relief work, said Verma.

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