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Ahmedabad NGO-aided self-run Dignity Kitchens feeding thousands of migrants

By Our Representative
In a unique initiative, an Ahmedabad-based NGO Janvikas-supported Institute of Social Studies and Transformation (IST), in close coordination with the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Zone 5, Ravi Teja, has begun providing food, through 15 self-run kitchens, to thousands of migrants twice a day in Ahmedabad.
Called Dignity Community Kitchens, the decision of the NGO to help the migrants was taken after DCP Ravi Teja decided to involve the NGO, which submitted the idea of allowing the migrants to operate their own kitchens with community support in dozen-odd clusters. Zone 5 consists of Gomtipur, Rakhiyal and Saraspur in old city area, where a large number of Covid-19 cases have been identified.
Teja's decision to involve NGO came after he held discussions with Janvikas chair Gagan Sethi, who was told that there were around 5,000 migrants in Zone 5, but since majority of them, around 4,800 were Muslims, "nobody organization" in Ahmedabad was coming forward to help out establish kitchen feed them. Sethi cited this as an example of the type of discrimination faced by Muslims during Covid-19 during a virtual seminar.
The decision to come up with Dignity Community Kitchens, called “Atma Samman: Apni Rasoi, Apna Khana”, was taken, says an NGO source, after it was found that migrants from “flung states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal” were unable to go back because of the decision to extend of the lockdown to May 3, 2020, and they are facing a major resource crunch.
The source said, the situation got particularly serious as the health crisis worsens with increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients in Ahmedabad, and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) shifted its focus towards managing health crisis rather than responding to the hunger needs of the migrant workers.
“Consequently”, said an NGO note, “Within less than 24 hours of the announcement of the extension of the lockdown, hundreds of migrant workers started coming on to the roads in many parts of the country, including Ahmedabad, demanding food and seeking permission to return to their homes.”
The NGO decided to respond to the nationwide lockdown, announced on March 24, 2020, leading to reports of panic and insecurity amongst migrant labourers working in several sectors as casual and contract labours, which was also true of Ahmedabad and its hinterland. Only workers of neighbouring states, such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra could risk walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their villages, but others got stranded.
Before organizing dignity kitchens, the NGO conducted a mapping exercise to locate the number of workers staying in different clusters. On succeeding to map more than 4,500 such workers and facilitate them to get connected with nearby community groups to access daily food packs, these migrants were link them all to one or the other community group to get daily food.
“We decided to support 12 clusters (each consisting 300-400 workers) in setting up kitchens, identifying and forming small cluster level committees that will run the kitchen, cook food and distribute to all identified workers in that cluster”, the note said, adding,” Along with the police team we supply them required ration, transport facility to supply food packs and monitor that every identified worker in each cluster receives hygienic food on time.”
The note said, procurement of food grain, pulses, spices and oil was being done is being on a weekly basis, while that of vegetables on a daily basis with the help of the DCP office. “For every procurement, invoice is generated, approved locally, and is forwarded to the designated authority of Janvikas for final check and for processing the payment”, it added.
“The NGO's finance department makes payment or requests its partners on the same day or next day through bank transfer to bank accounts of vendors by RTGS”, the note said, adding, “Confirmation of payment received is taken by the NGO after the vendor has received payment.”
Pointing out that police support at every location is found to be very important also because of the need to maintain law and order, the note said, the local communities and volunteers from self-help migrant groups take responsibility for distribution and cleaning of vessels, as also that people standing in queue maintaining social distance, those handling kitchens all use masks, gloves and sanitizers.
The records of people served cooked foods is kept and submitted to NGO on a daily basis through WhatsApp, while each beneficiary migrant is charged token one rupee per meal through a coupon. The amount is used for taking care of any unforeseen expenses with proper maintaining of accounts.

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