India Today TV helped migrant workers in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony call the BMC helpline so that they could be provided with food and essentials. 48 hours passed, many excuses were made, but no food was provided to them by the Maharashtra government.
Shiv Chandra and others with him, some of whom work in the buffalo sheds said that they walk at least 3-4 kilometres to get grains and that too the grocers are selling at a higher price compared to earlier. (Photo: Vidya/India Today)
- Labourers in Mumbai have been struggling for food due to lockdown
- They called BMC helpline and were assured food will reach them asap
- 2 days later, BMC told them to contact an NGO to get food
Hailing from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shiv Chandra has been working as a labourer at various construction sites in Mumbai for some years now. Whatever money he used to get, he would keep a portion of it and send the rest to his family back home.
Since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed, he has had no work and is left with no money to even fetch rice and daal from markets around Aarey colony where he is living. He has a cot in a buffalo shed at Unit number one in Aarey where he sits all day worrying about earning his next meal.
Called helpline on Sunday
India Today TV helped him call the BMC helpline 1800221292 to help cope during the lockdown. After giving his contact details and address, Shiv Chandra was told that he would get food by Sunday evening or Monday morning.
Shiv Chandra and others with him, some of whom work in the buffalo sheds said that they walk at least 3-4 kilometres to get grains and that too the grocers are selling at a higher price compared to earlier.
The wait continued on Monday
Like Shiv Chandra there are about 80 people who live in this particular unit of the buffalo shed. Ashok Yadav, who works as a salesman in a shop in Jogeshwari area of Mumbai also hails from Uttar Pradesh. Yadav and Shiv Chandra and others kept waiting for food to arrive but when it did not then whatever little ration they had, they cooked and shared among themselves.
When they did not receive any food or even a call from BMC about the food, then they called up the helpline number again, 24 hours after making the first call. The person at the other end said that since it was Sunday, they could not provide the food but will surely provide the food now.
The buffalo shed at Aarey where people have been waiting for food after calling up helpline. (Photo: Vidya/India Today)
When India Today TV spoke to the helpline then we were given a number of an officer who is no longer posted in the Aarey-Goregaon area. However, that officer did help us with the contact of the officer-in-charge of food distribution in Aarey area.
This officer told India Today TV that about 500 packets of food have been handed over to the local councillor to be distributed. On enquiring, if the food packets would be delivered to all those people who have called the helpline, an assurance was given that it would be.
Hunger pangs on Tuesday
On Tuesday afternoon, when 48 hours had passed since calling the helpline, no delivery of food was made to these people in spite of them calling the helpline a multiple number of times.
The prime minister had already announced the extension of lockdown till May 3 and this had many like Shiv Chandra and Vijay Yadav extremely worried. “We have been waiting for food to arrive but it still hasn’t. Now with the extension and no money, how will we survive?” asked Yadav.
This time, the India Today TV correspondent called up the officer-in-charge again and was given asked to contact Kubal, an individual from a non-government agency who has been helping the government in food distribution. Kubal assured that food will reach the hungry souls in some time.
Yadav said, “We can not let anyone go hungry. All of us here have been sharing whatever little we have to survive.” Yadav and Shiv Chandra were happy to have finally received a call.
They told Kubal that even if they receive grains then they can cook and eat. Kubal told them that arranging for grains would take 3-4 days but he could get the prepared khichdi right away. Yadav told them him that then they will wait for the khichdi.