Yet Again, Gurudwaras Jump in to Feed Thousands of Homeless Migrants


Yet Again, Gurudwaras Jump in to Feed Thousands of Homeless Migrants

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The nationwide lockdown has stripped millions of Indians of their basic means to livelihood. But humanity manages to stand the test of time.

In Delhi, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib has opened up its kitchens and feeds around 40,000 people every day. Sixty people have been manning these daily preparations, with 40 working in the kitchen and 20 distributing the cooked meals and handling the logistics. The meal consists of rice, bread, sabji, dal, and prasada. “The automatic machine available with us is capable of preparing bread from 1.5 quintal of wheat flour every hour, which minimises the number of people involved in preparing the bread,” Harbir Singh, in charge of the langar in the gurdwara, told The Economic Times. Once the food is prepared, Delhi government officials collect it from the gurudwara for further distribution in the city.

Singh also said that the people working in the kitchen routinely adhere to safety protocols and sanitise while preparing the food. Strict precautions are taken so as to not risk the lives of the cooks.

But preparing food for 40,000 people every day is no menial task. The kitchen starts as early as 5 am every morning and is ready to serve lunch after six long hours. In similar fashion, the dinner is kept ready by 6 pm, the work for which begins at 1 pm.

In the past two weeks, the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara has served food to over 4.5 lakh people in need and vouches to continue in its kind endeavour, stating that its resources can last the lockdown period.

Meanwhile, in South Delhi’s Kalu Sarai neighbourhood, a mosque and a gurudwara have joined hands to feed migrant workers. Aslam Chaudhury, along with Harbans Singh and Surendar Singh, two volunteers from the Gurudwara Shri Singh Sabha, and a small group of people from the neighbourhood prepare food packets – usually comprising of mixed vegetable pulao – for the migrants in Shahpur Jat, Hauz Khas village, Mehrauli, Begumpur and Kalu Sarai.


Shahid Tantray/The Caravan

Just two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown order, Chaudhury, who runs a mess and a catering business, started his kitchen in the now-vacant mosque. “Covid-19 is a disease that was brought into India by the passport-holders and now the ration card holders are suffering,” Chaudhury told The Caravan. But the difficult times have only motivated him to provide his assistance to people in need, in the best way he knows.

With the langar shut down, the gurudwara close by readily agreed to aid Chaudhury providing him two large vessels for the same along with two volunteer cooks. “What we are doing here is not very different from what we do in the langar,” Harbans Singh, the langar supervisor who had come along with Surendar Singh, the cook, said. “It is god’s grace and we will do seva as long as the lockdown continues.”

The volunteers here too keep themselves constantly sanitised and either wear a mask or tie a handkerchief around their face while at work.

It takes three hours to prepare the food, and another hour to get it packed. By 2 pm every day, their team sets out to distribute the packets, a task that takes around three hours. But for these hard-working men, it’s no time to rest as they get back, wash the vessels and purchase vegetables and rice for the next day. Those working here assure that each lunch packet they distribute has enough calories to sustain people until the next day, since they are unable to provide dinners too. The team shells out money from their own pockets to get the provisions.

The constant efforts of the Sikh community is an inspiration and it has lessons for those in the country engaging in bigotry.