In World’s Largest Lockdown, India’s Community Kitchens Feed The Poor
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide, India has become one of the hardest-hit countries, with over 33 million confirmed cases and more than 400,000 deaths. To combat the spread of the virus, the Indian government imposed a nationwide lockdown in March 2020, which led to significant economic disruptions and left many vulnerable populations without access to essential resources like food and shelter.
One group that has been particularly affected by the lockdown is migrant workers. Migrant workers are a significant part of the Indian workforce, with millions of people moving from rural areas to cities in search of employment. However, the lockdown left many of these workers stranded far from home, with limited access to resources and no means of transportation to return home.
Amid this crisis, Shishpal Singh, a businessman in Mumbai, decided to take action to help stranded migrant workers. Singh, who runs a studio rental business, noticed a group of migrant workers outside his apartment block looking for food. When the lockdown was imposed, these workers had come from the southern state of Tamil Nadu to lay gas pipelines and were stranded in Mumbai.
Singh and his neighbours contributed money, while the security guards at his building helped obtain supplies for the meals. In addition, the group provided hot meals to the stranded workers, who were grateful for the assistance. Singh’s efforts are just one example of the many individuals and organisations in India working to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Challenges of Widespread Hunger and Limited Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread hunger and limited resources in India, particularly for vulnerable populations like migrant workers. While the government has promised a steady supply of grains, access to community kitchens has been limited by the severe restrictions on people’s movement.
Non-profit organisations and helplines have emerged to help address the hunger crisis and limited resources. For example, Jan Sahas, a non-profit organisation, has set up a helpline to connect stranded workers with resources like food and money. However, the organisation reports that most calls are desperate pleas for food. To address this need, Jan Sahas has set up community kitchens and provides food packets to stranded workers.
Similarly, Jan Pahal, another non-profit organisation, runs community kitchens in and around New Delhi to provide hot meals to those in need. However, the severe restrictions on movement have made it difficult for these organisations to reach all those who require assistance. “There are tens of thousands who cannot access these kitchens because they are simply too far,” said Dharmendra Kumar, secretary of Jan Pahal.
Health Implications of the Lockdown
The lockdown in India has created a crisis of hunger and limited resources and has significant health implications. For example, pregnant women and children walking home with their parents are especially vulnerable to a range of infections due to poor nutrition. According to Veena Shatrugna, former deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition, “The health implications of the lockdown are huge, as families are left with no choice but to starve or walk long distances to get home.”
The lockdown has also exacerbated existing health inequalities in India, particularly for those living in urban slums. With millions of people living in crowded urban slums with limited access to basic sanitation, the risk of disease transmission is high. The spread of COVID-19 in these communities could have devastating consequences.
As India works to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, addressing the issue of hunger and limited resources will be critical to ensuring the health and well-being of all its citizens. While non-profit organisations, street food vendors, and small businesses are stepping up to assist, the need for resources and support remains significant. As a result, India’s government has announced several measures to address the crisis, including providing free food rations and cash transfers to those in need.
However, much more must be done to ensure that vulnerable populations like migrant workers are not left behind. This includes providing access to food, shelter, and basic sanitation, as well as addressing the underlying issues of poverty and inequality that have left so many people vulnerable in the first place.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep fault lines in Indian society, highlighting the urgent need for systemic change. While the crisis is far from over, the efforts of individuals and organisations like Shishpal Singh and Jan Sahas offer a glimmer of hope in a difficult time. By working together to provide assistance and support, India can emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as a more equitable and just society.