Instead of cooked food, BMC to distribute ration packets during Mumbai rains

Updated: Jun 03, 2020, 07:35 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Addl municipal commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal says they'll continue the food packets only for homeless, destitute and those without work

Citizens distribute food and water among needy people at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Citizens distribute food and water among needy people at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The fast approaching cyclone and the upcoming monsoon months are likely to affect the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) daily food distribution in slum areas, which has prompted the civic body to work on alternatives. Instead of readymade food packets, it plans to distribute ration kits and food items with a longer shelf life to certain groups of people.

After a number of migrants in the city returned to their hometowns, the civic body gradually reduced the number of food packets containing pre-cooked meals that were being distributed in slum areas, including Containment Zones across the city. Civic officials said that the supply was reduced from 7.25 lakh food packets to about 4.5 lakh.

Additional municipal commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal said, "Since distribution of food packets will be a major challenge during monsoon, we are working on alternatives like giving ration packets. However, for the homeless and the destitute as well as people who are without work, we will have to continue with food packets. It would be a challenge though." Jaiswal added that almost six lakh migrants had already left Mumbai.

Sangita Hasnale, assistant municipal commissioner (planning), said that instead of khichdi, they were planning to give out dry items. "We're planning to distribute theplas and mathri, which they can store for a few days. Instead of khichdi, we will give ration kits organised through NGOs. This way we can reduce person-to-person contact and control spread of the infection," added Hasnale. She further said that while pre-cooked food packets cannot be stopped completely, the ration kits would be given especially to the visually and physically challenged and needy people.

Pointing out some shortcomings in the plan, Bilal Khan of Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, said that the availability of cooking gas for people living in slum areas is a practical issue. "The PDS stopped distributing kerosene and a cylinder in the black market is sold for anything between R750- R1,200 depending on the area. People living in slums cannot afford a cylinder. If kerosene is available, then people can use stoves to cook," he said, adding that the Ujjwala Yojna was a poorly coordinated initiative and hardly anyone was getting cylinders.

Opposition leader and Congress corporator Ravi Raja lauded the idea but said that considering the number of complaints received about the poor quality of pre-cooked meals, the BMC should organise ration kits for every one. "The quality of the khichdi is really bad and there have been several complaints about the food being spoilt. The BMC should organise for ration kits for all non-ration card holders and given the state of the economy, people need the support," he said.

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