Coronavirus outbreak: Mumbaikars go extra mile for the homeless

Updated: Mar 25, 2020, 07:22 IST | Anurag Kamble, Vishal Singh | Mumbai

Caterer and his team prepare meals for essential staff, police and homeless; an organisation distributes food grain, etc, to the poor and needy

Members of the Utsahi Mitra Mandal set to distribute grains etc in Bhandup. Pic/Rajesh Gupta
Members of the Utsahi Mitra Mandal set to distribute grains etc in Bhandup. Pic/Rajesh Gupta

The measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus have led to the shutdown of the whole country. Lakhs of citizens have been asked to stay home and some are even working from home. However the lockdown has seriously affected daily wage workers and the homeless. But in Mumbai, some good Samaritans have come forward to help them.

'Feeding family members'
A caterer from Mulund, Sanjay Mali, 53, has been feeding essential staff of the BMC, civic-run hospitals, the police and the homeless, about 200 people, since the curfew. "On Sunday when I had gone out to buy medicines, I found some 4 to 5 persons roaming. When I confronted them, they told me they were staff at Mulund Railway station and were looking for food. That's when this idea came to me," said Mali.

Sanjay Mali inspects the prepared meals. Pic/Rajesh Gupta
Sanjay Mali inspects the prepared meals. Pic/Rajesh Gupta

After that Mali went to MT Agarwal Hospital, a maternity hospital at Pach Rasta, the T ward office to meet the staff there and also met the police to find if any of them needed food. He also found some homeless people in need of it. After making a list of probable takers, he started preparing food for them. "Me and my staff, including about 10 boys, get up around 5 am, and then prepare tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner for 175 to 200 people every day. I believe it's my duty to help the people who are helping us in these testing times," Mali said. When asked about the funds for his help, he simply replied, "Do you care when you are feeding family members? Everyone should come forward and help people or the police standing below our society or at the nearest chowk. That's how we will fight it out" he added.

Organisation helps locals
Founded 40 years ago in Bhandup (W), the Utsahi Mitra Mandal takes up various cultural, education and medical initiatives in its locality, Utkarsha Nagar. "Our locality is vast and many residents are daily wage workers or vendors whose bread and butter depends upon their everyday income," said Vikas Patil, president of Utsahi Mitra Mandal.

Members of the Utsahi Mitra Mandal distribute grains etc in Bhandup. Pic/Rajesh Gupta
Members of the Utsahi Mitra Mandal distribute grains etc in Bhandup. Pic/Rajesh Gupta

"When we were discussing the effects of the lockdown we wondered what will happen to people who will have to stay at home with no money and groceries. So on Monday, we started a door-to-door survey and found 68 people were in need of groceries," added Patil.
The mandal's members distributed 5 kg rice, 1 kg tur dal and 1 kg each of onions and potatoes free to the 68 people till Tuesday afternoon. "We are contacting more people to find who else needs such help," he said.

NGO seeks govt's help
Beghar Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO, provided food for free to the homeless in Kalina, Kurla and at JJ Marg. But after doing this for three to four days, when hotels and caterers refused to take orders, they delivered biscuits to the homeless people. Unfortunately they have been unable to help from Tuesday.

Homeless people with biscuits given to them by members of the Beghar Adhikar Abhiyan
Homeless people with biscuits given to them by members of the Beghar Adhikar Abhiyan

An NGO official said that there are more than 2 lakh homeless people in Mumbai, including families from three to four generations who are from Maharashtra, Gujarat and South India. These are labourers and work on a daily basis. Due to the lack of work now, they do not have any money.

Brijesh Arya, convener of the Abhiyan, said, "We distributed food prepared by caterers but then they were unable to find vegetables. So we distributed biscuits. Today, the caterers refused to cook". Arya said "Homeless people are requesting us to get them food. We are trying. We urge the government to get food to them."

The do gooders from Malad

A group of 10 couples, all from one building, Kamal Kunj, in Malad, have been distributing lunch and dinner free to 450 daily wages who are now out of work due to the lockdown. While the women cook, the men distribute the food.

Interestingly these couples A resident of the society, Ronak Mistry said, "Many are going to sleep hungry. So all of us decided to help." His wife Kavita said, "It feels really good to help people." Resident Hiten Shah said, "We are spending from our pockets for this and also asking people to donate. We have started distributing food in Kandivali and Borivli."

-Shirish Vaktania

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