“WE MUST MAIN­TAIN THE DIG­NITY OF WORK­ERS”

India Today - - GOOD NEWS -

The 2003-batch Haryana cadre IAS of­fi­cer’s scheme for sub­sidised pre-cooked hot meals feeds 1,500 mi­grant labour­ers in Chandi­garh ev­ery evening.

Some months back, we won­dered what we could do to im­prove the lot of the nearly 20,000 labour­ers in Chandi­garh. Most are from the vil­lages of Bi­har and Ut­tar Pradesh, and they work as rick­shaw pullers or in­dus­trial labour. They live in the city’s slums and clearly had trou­ble get­ting ac­cess to cheap, clean, nu­tri­tious food. We drew up a busi­ness plan for a sub­sidised tif­fin ser­vice, tap­ping into CSR funds from cor­po­rates and gov­ern­ment oil firms. Set­ting up the in­fras­truc­ture—build­ing the kitchen in Sec­tor 11 of Karuna Sadan, the head­quar­ters of the Red Cross So­ci­ety in Chandi­garh, buy­ing the cha­p­ati ma­chines and at­taknead­ing ma­chines—and ar­rang­ing for rolling funds to pay the 20 work­ers who run the kitchen took some time. A 37 trial run of 200 food pack­ets that we dis­trib­uted in slums in­stilled con­fi­dence. The An­na­purna Ak­shay­pa­tra Yo­jana was in­au­gu­rated by Pun­jab Gov­er­nor V.P. Singh Bad­nore on Jan­uary 2. Ev­ery day, five trucks drive into the mi­grant labour colonies or in­dus­trial ar­eas be­tween 6 and 9 pm and sell 1,500 food pack­ets. The food is foil-wrapped and each meal com­prises six cha­p­atis, 120 grams of veg­eta­bles and a slice of pickle for Rs 10. There’s a rea­son the food is not free. We want to main­tain the dig­nity of the work­ers by not giv­ing out free food and also en­sure that the scheme is self­sus­tain­ing. It’s early days yet, but the scheme’s suc­cess has given us con­fi­dence to dream big. We have the ca­pac­ity for 10,000 meals a day and will scale up to that grad­u­ally over the next six months. We are es­pe­cially proud the scheme didn’t take a break even when rains lashed the city—our clien­tele waited for our food. We have laid the ground­work for this scheme to out­last my ten­ure. It will be ad­min­is­tered by the DC un­der the dis­trict Red Cross, which he runs.” —As told to San­deep Un­nithan AJIT JOSHI, Deputy Com­mis­sioner, CHANDI­GARH

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