NEW DELHI: In Shahdara’s Lalbagh slum cluster near Mansarovar Park metro station, earning a livelihood has come to a stop for around 300 families living there since the lockdown. Dwindling cash savings and rations are the only constants for the residents. But when help arrived in the form of rations this week, the communities decided to forego them and instead, distributed it to near-by clusters.
“Our first thought was that we at least have buffer rations for five days. We came to know that in near-by clusters people had absolutely nothing to eat. They are needier of the rations than us. Their children need to eat. There were no second thoughts on distributing the ration to them,” said Puttilal Choudhary, who belongs to Mahavat community, a denotified tribe.
The rations comprised 750 kg rice and 250 kg of pulses which was facilitated by Koshish — Field Action Project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which runs several intervention programmes in the area. So far, they have distributed rations to over 100 families.
“At a time when the communities are uncertain about their survival, they decided to support families that had nothing on them. Not a family in the entire community objected or asked for ration. This is a strong counter to the popular narrative that is often played for poor people in general, and more specifically the homeless,” said Mohd Tarique, project director, Koshish.
The current generations of Mahavat and Kapadia, a scheduled caste community, who inhabit the area eke out their living from selling old clothes, lemon chilli threads and playing the drums in marriages. A significant number of them are left out of any state benefits.
Jai Singh, who was in the committee which carried out the relief work, has a family of 10 members — eight children and his wife. He had seven days ration and a sum of `3,000 left with him. “We identified people who had received no rations and were struggling to arrange meals. When the rations arrived, we reached out to the distressed slum dwellers who had nothing to fall back on. Many elderly women and widows had no savings,” said Jai Singh.
Ramu, another member who led the relief work said the distribution was ongoing. “We have not stopped our work. We are maintaining adequate distance while handing out the rations,” he said.