Tribune News Service
Lucknow, June 15
As dusk starts falling, 70-year-old Ram Prakash fixes his gaze at the entrance of his tiny room awaiting a Roti Bank volunteer who brings with him freshly cooked chapattis and vegetable.
A resident of Vijay Nagar in Mahoba of Bundelkhand, 250 km from Lucknow, Prakash is one of the 400 beneficiaries of the newly set up Roti Bank started by a local citizen group Bundeli Samaj on April 15 this year.
Prakash’s children are settled in Delhi and occasionally send him money. But he is too fragile to arrange for cooked food. He was completely dependent on the generosity of his equally marginalised neighbours till the Roti Bank identified him as a recipient of the free-cooked food.
Talking to this reporter, convener of Bundeli Samaj Tara Patkar shares how the idea of the Roti Bank came about.
“Haji Muttan Chacha, president of Bundeli Samaj, and I were waiting at the bus station when some children came begging for money. We asked them what they would do with the money. When they said that they would buy food, we asked them if they would stop begging if we provided them food,” Patkar said.
The children agreed to stop begging, setting in motion this unique and voluntary venture — a fine example of participatory civil society action. “We have taken a pledge that no person should go to bed on an empty stomach in this city,” Patkar said.
Nearly 25 youth volunteers, mostly college students associated with the Bundeli Samaj, are active between 6pm and 9pm daily.
They first go door-to-door, collecting food from around 400 households who have volunteered to provide two chapattis and some vegetable. Thereafter, they move around to distribute these packets to the deserving recipients identified through a rigorous process.
The city has been divided into five zones and the youth teams have taken over a zone each. With the help of beggars, destitute at railway stations, bus stations and residents of Kashi Ram colonies built by the previous BSP government for housing destitute, a tentative list of deserving candidates was prepared.
These recipients are too young, too old, sick, fragile or abandoned to arrange for their own food.
“After two months, things are falling into a set pattern. For instance, by 8pm daily my mother is ready waiting for the volunteer with her four chapattis and vegetable,” Patkar said.
He said almost all families who were providing the meals were either lower middle class or middle class. “They themselves are not too comfortably off as they are hard hit by constantly rising food prices. Still, they feel morally responsible that no one should go to bed hungry in Mahoba,” Patkar added.
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