COVID-19 impact: BMC reverses its order reducing food supply by 20 per cent

Updated: May 19, 2020, 06:58 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

As city corporators, who have their ear to the ground, say the need for support is only increasing with the lockdown extension, the BMC rolls back Saturday decision to cut packets

BMC officials from G South ward giving food to labourers working at a construction site at Worli. Pic/Bipin Kokate
BMC officials from G South ward giving food to labourers working at a construction site at Worli. Pic/Bipin Kokate

At a time when migrant labourers and slum dwellers are struggling to survive every day, the civic body had decided to reduce the number of food packets delivered to them, claiming there was no need for so many as people had returned to their hometowns. The decision, however, was forced into being reversed just a day later after corporators argued that the number of people had only grown.

The order to reduce the supply of food packets came on Saturday and while the supply dropped by about 20 per cent on average in the city, in some wards like M East, it was reduced by around 25 per cent. Corporators reported that on Sunday, they received half the number of food packets which resulted in chaos during distribution.

Received half of usual number
Leader of the Opposition and Congress corporator Ravi Raja said that instead of the 2,000 food packets he regularly received to distribute in the slum areas of Sion Koliwada, on Sunday, he received only 1,000. "I received only half the food packets and during Iftari, I got only 500 packets instead of the usual 1,000. Due to this, we were unable to give food to everyone and people were agitated," he said. Raja said that even earlier, all the migrants did not get food, but they were able to manage with the help of NGOs.

A file picture of BMC workers distributing food packets in Byculla. Pic/Ashish Raje
A file picture of BMC workers distributing food packets in Byculla. Pic/Ashish Raje

More rely on food packets
The BMC distributes 7 lakh food packets every day and distributed around 5.5 lakh on Sunday. The M East ward has the highest density of slum population and civic officials said that while they earlier supplied around 1.32 lakh food packets per day here, they had reduced them to around one lakh. Abu Asim Azmi, member of the legislative assembly and Samajwadi Party leader, said that the number of people who rely on the food packets to survive has increased. "Many people who ran their household on their savings are now out of money. When Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Chahal visited M East ward on Sunday, the corporators requested him not to cut down on the food packets and he agreed to reverse the decision," said Azmi.

Apart from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), various community kitchens in the city also supply food packets, especially in areas where people are fasting for Ramzan. In M East ward, the community kitchen distributes around 25,000 food packets and also cooks for Sehri and Iftari.

Sangeeta Hasnale, assistant municipal commissioner (planning) said that on Monday, the original number of food packets was restored. "Since many people were leaving the city to return home, we thought we could reduce the quantity by 1.5 lakh out of 7 lakh food packets that we usually supply. But it was brought to our attention that since the lockdown increased, many who had planned to start earning again were unable to do so. They are still jobless and now stand in queue for food packets. So we have restored the initial figures," she said. When contacted, civic chief Chahal said, "No reduction has been planned."

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