This Article is From Apr 13, 2020

Queues From 6 am For Lunch In Delhi As Lockdown Hits The Poorest

At a government school in Badli, northwest Delhi, 500 people used to queue up for the free meal - yellow dal, rice and vegetable stew. Now there are 1,200 standing in what appears to be a never-ending queue, moving slowly in the blazing sun

Queues From 6 am For Lunch In Delhi As Lockdown Hits The Poorest

There are over 2,500 centres in Delhi for the distribution of free lunch and dinner to the poor.

New Delhi:

A long queue of bags, containers, even buckets forms on a road in Delhi in the morning, with adequate gaps for social distancing to check against coronavirus. By afternoon, the objects morph into humans, standing for hours for lunch served by Delhi Government.

At a government school in Badli, northwest Delhi, 500 people used to queue up for the free meal - yellow dal, rice and biscuits. Now there are 1,200 standing in what appears to be a never-ending queue, moving slowly in the blazing sun.

"Sometimes we come at 6 am to get in line quickly for lunch," says Mohammad Shahzad, an auto-rickshaw driver who has been without any means of livelihood since the lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 came into force on March 24. All public transport was halted.

Now he drives his auto for over a kilometer every day, only to get food for his family. Shahzad's wife died of an illness two years ago and he has six children back in Bihar. He hasn't spoken to them as he has no money to recharge his phone.

There are over 2,500 centres in Delhi for the distribution of free lunch and dinner to the poor. The Delhi government says it has made arrangements for 10 lakh get food each day as of April 1. But on the ground, many seem to be going without their daily quota.

"Sometimes, the food gets over when it is our turn," says 32-year-old Tariq, who says he has spent hours waiting already. He had "reserved" a spot with an empty tiffin container in the morning, long before lunch hours, but that is no guarantee the food won't run out when it is his turn.

As the line inches forward sluggishly, civil defence personnel keep an eye on coronavirus precautions and whether anyone is standing too close together.

Delhi has 1,154 coronavirus cases, including 24 deaths.