By Anjani Chadha
[NEW DELHI] On a routine sweltering Wednesday morning, Kishan (name changed), 13 years old, strolls the street in front of the Dr B.R. Ambedkar Hospital. Dressed in a blue trouser and a frazzled pale white t-shirt, he is busy hunting for gold in garbage bags.
As the clock strikes 11:15, a white van reaches the premises. In a matter of minutes, you see a large queue behind the van. Kishan too chases the van and finds a place in the queue.
Some men and women come out of the van. They are volunteers of the Khidmat Foundation, an NGO which organizes daily nutritional meal programs.
Such daily meal programs have been a haven for security guards, rickshaw pullers, rag pickers and other peddlers working in the scorching heat. They help to address the issue of ‘hunger’ at urban grass root levels.
India may be a flourishing economy but it is still dogged by poverty and hunger. According to an FAO estimate, about 190.7 million people — 14.5% of the population — are undernourished in India. The Global Hunger Index 2016 ranks India at 97 out of 118 countries.
An hour passes by and the people in the queue are now scattered everywhere outside the hospital. Some of them are sitting on the footpath, some are standing below a tree. Kishan too finds a comfortable shelter near a railing. The chaos has now changed to tranquillity. There is an apparent relief on the faces of people.
A report by UNICEF in 2016 says that India is home to over 30% of almost 385 million children living in extreme poverty.
New Delhi is a sprawling metropolis; yet incidents of thriving poverty and food insecurity are not uncommon here. Most of the city’s workforce makes $100 a month or less and lack access to basic facilities, including basic meals.
Several NGOs play a vital role in addressing ‘hunger’ in the national capital. Feeding India, NO Hungry Child, Skip a Meal, Roti Bank, and Robin Hood Army are some such NGOs that operate in the city.
“We have been organizing this program every day since the last two years. For a number of people, including the guards of the hospital, and petrol pump workers, our daily meal worker is a daily source of lunch for them,” says Somansh Grover, a volunteer of the Khidmat Foundation.
The Khidmat Foundation serves ‘Khichdi’ every day. ”Doctors have said that the multigrain Khichdi which we serve is very rich in nutrients and good for health. We also ensure that no food is wasted and no littering takes place in the premises,” says Somansh.
Several organisations such as System Research Society (SRS) goes beyond just feeding the poor and creates awareness about food wastage.
“We aim at promoting a waste-no-food-culture. The ultimate aim is to make people aware that every grain is born from hard toil,” says an SRS spokesperson.
It’s 12:30 pm and the volunteers are planning to return. The crowd has dispersed gradually. Kishan is back at work. With a white gunny bag on one shoulder, his eyes searching for gems, and with a stomach unsure of the next meal, he walks away.