Charity in the time of tragedy

Despite cost to restore stalls gutted in fire at Juhu beach, owners raise Rs 10 lakh for drought relief

Rising above the tragedy of a fire that gutted several food stalls at Juhu Chowpatty and caused insurmountable damage to property, 80 stall owners on Friday came forward to give financial assistance to drought-hit villages in Maharashtra. After pooling their resources, the stall owners handed over a cheque of Rs 10 lakh to state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Members of the Khadya Peye Vikrete Coop Society Ltd, the apex body of the Juhu Chowpatty food court
Members of the Khadya Peye Vikrete Coop Society Ltd, the apex body of the Juhu Chowpatty food court

Their donation comes in the wake of the drought that has gripped the state. According to reports, the total number of farmer suicides in the drought-affected Marathwada region this year is estimated to be around 338.

C Arunachalam, chairman of Khadya Peye Vikrete Coop Society Ltd — the apex body of the food court — said that the initial plan was to raise Rs20 lakh. "We were in the process of collecting funds, when there was a fire on April 22, which resulted from a short circuit. Seventeen stalls were gutted, while three were partially burnt," Arunachalam said. The food court, which is on the northern end of the main Juhu beach, has 80 stalls.

Workers reconstruct food stalls gutted in the April 22 fire
Workers reconstruct food stalls gutted in the April 22 fire

After rough estimates, it was found that the cost of building each stall would be around R6 lakh. "We had no choice, but to divert the funds set aside for drought-relief, for rebuilding the stalls," he added.

Ramchandra Kadam, secretary of the food court operations, said the decision to donate the money came from stall owners and workers, who hail from different parts of India and earn their living by selling food on the beach. Meanwhile, the stall owners have also decided to ration the amount of water they use on a daily basis. Committee member Ganesh Thevar said, "We have now instructed each of them to use just one bucket of water to mop the floor."

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