The roads in one of the busiest parts of Ahmedabad was deserted due to the lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, aside from the odd one or two people out to buy medicines or essentials. A woman, without about ten masks hanging from a stick stood ata corner of the road near Gulbai Tekra, an urban slum.
She runs to anyone who passes by, but no one stops to buy the masks she sells.
“My name is Rama,” she said. “I do not want money. Do you have rice or roti? My child has not had any food since morning,” she asked.
Ramaben is one of the residents of Gulbai Tekra, an urban slum of daily-wage earners and labourers in central Ahmedabad. Most of the men in the slum, like her husband, have not had any work since the lockdown began. And, like most families, she too has run out of food.
“I have not eaten since yesterday. I can survive on water but my child needs to eat. Today, I fed him one biscuit that was left. I ran out of rice and essentials,” said Ramaben, pointing to her toddler who sits by her on the street as she attempts to sell masks.
“I bought these masks at Rs 25 each from a manufacturer in the city and am selling them for Rs 30. But, I have sold two since morning,” she added.
Three days later, on March 27, Red Cross distributed basic food items amongst the slum dwellers of Gulbai Tekra.
In another part of Ahmedabad, near Jodhpur cross roads, about 10 families live on the street in a make-shift slum. Men and women from these families are predominantly daily-wage earners who resort to begging when there is no work or means of earning. Since the lockdown began, they could neither earn nor beg.
“We did not have anything to eat yesterday except one roti that we fed the kids with water. That roti was given to us by a passer-by,” said a woman.
“Nobody from the government has reached us with food yet,” said another man from the slum. “I do not have any money left. I have two rotis and a family of five to feed. Why is this happening?” he asked, as other slum dwellers flocked around. None of them have any idea why the city was suddenly under a lockdown.
Somepolice personnel and civic body workers have distributed food packets in certain areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Aside from them, various NGOs and rights organizations, groups of activists and the Red Cross have been distributing food to these families.
However, the Gujarat government or civic bodies in various cities are yet to announce any measures or a plan to feed the homeless and the families of daily- wage earners living in slums.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has reportedly distributed some food parcels to homeless that they received through donations from restaurants, temples committees and individuals.
The AMC has, however, been delivering cooked food parcels to people who are quarantined at home. About 4,000 people are home quarantined in Ahmedabad and the AMC has been distributing about 3,500 food parcels twice a day since March 18.
To prevent those that arrived from foreign countries from venturing out, a kit was planned to be delivered at their door step that included milk powder, noodles, khakra, biscuits etc. However, the civic body came up with the idea of delivering cooked food to prevent any chances of transmission.
Noticeably, AMC has received some requests for Jain food that are devoid of any bulb vegetables as onion, garlic, potato, ginger, radish, carrot, that it has decided to accommodate.