New Delhi: Civil society volunteers who have been working for the welfare of the violence victims of North East Delhi have urged the Delhi government to go for the immediate universalisation of the food distribution system and provide foodgrain through its fair price shops.
The rights group, comprising activists like Farah Naqvi, Rahil Chatterjee, Yash Kumbhat, Jaya Sharma, Shalini Joshi, Vani Subramanian, Dipta Bhog, Nandini Rao, Apeksha Vora, Malini Ghose, Chayanika Shah, Satnam Kaur, Shabani Hassanwalia, Nidhi Kol and Purwa Bharadwaj, among others, has stated that while it was working as an emergency response to displaced families in North East Delhi, the Delhi government now “needs to open its heart and its public distribution system to every hungry working class family in every corner of the city”.
“Civil society volunteers are out there, day and night, but they cannot fill the gap for long. The homeless and migrant workers need cooked food, but working class families need dry rations they cook at home to survive the lockdown,” the group said.
It demanded expeditious opening of all fair price shops and the release of foodgrain through them to all those in need, irrespective of whether they possess a ration card or not. “Now you need to move in, with free rations to anyone who comes to a fair price shop… they are not there for an afternoon stroll risking coronavirus infection. They are there because they are confronting starvation,” it said.
Incidentally, this group had provided emergency relief to 270 families and also transferred over Rs 8 lakh into the bank accounts of the violence affected under the aegis of the umbrella group, Citizen’s Collective for Peace.
The group has since pointed out that the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19 changed much with regards to the aid that was being provided to the victims of violence in North East Delhi.
On how “communalism had devastated people in North East Delhi, even before COVID-19 arrived,” the group stated that “families lost loved ones, saw their homes and small enterprises built in a lifetime of labour, burnt and looted in a flash of hate. Thousands fled their neighbourhoods in fear, carrying with them children, the elderly, those specially abled.”
It said the victims suffered even more as rains impacted their lives even at the Eidgah Relief Camp that was set up to provide them relief and support. It said the Delhi Government was asked to provide fair monetary compensation to the impacted families, daily subsistence allowance to displaced survivors, and streamlining of the compensation process.
However, even as these efforts were on, the COVID-19 crisis came and it forced the closure of the relief camp and left the violence victims fending for themselves. “Families were sent off to face corona alone, without a roof over their heads, or money with which to buy food and medicine,” the group said, adding how people have been calling it for help with regard to money, food and shelter. “Women called in tears, saying they were down to a handful of atta to feed children.”
The group then sourced donations from individuals who gave the Rs 8 lakh that was directly transferred into the accounts of 270 displaced families.
While putting in this emergency support mechanism in place, the group said it was now awaiting “the Delhi government’s commitment of free rations through the public distribution system to become operational and accessible to all.”