The state-imposed lockdown might seem essential to curb the Covid infection but the stark inequalities in our society pose threats of different nature for many; arranging food being a daunting challenge among them. Addressing this Barrackpore Police Commissionerate has started a community policing project called Annapurna where the poor and homeless, living in extreme distress are given food and ration from the respective police stations to ease their pain.
Shri Dhrubojyoti De, IPS, Joint CP (Headquarters) of Barrackpore Police Commissionerate said, “We started this project last year during lockdown when we saw the misery of the poor and homeless in these unprecedented times. We also faced appeals from people who were left unemployed. We tied up with Ramkrishna Mission, some other well known NGOs as well as with some local vendors to provide them with minimum basic essentials to tide over the crisis.”
Last year the Annapurna program was implemented in three phases. People were fed meals, dry food like chidhe (flattened rice) was distributed especially during the Amphan cyclone and rations were also distributed to the needy. This year the Annapurna program has been decentralized and the local police stations are now made in charge of implementing it in their respective areas.
The Noapara Police Station which comes under the Barrackpore Police Commissionerate has started distributing cooked food for these marginalized sections of the society from May 17, this year. Every day 100 packets of cooked food are being distributed among the poor and homeless. Parthasarathi Mazumdar, OC Noapara Police Station said, “Last year we were mainly distributing dry ration like rice, lentils and soybean. However, this year after discussion, we along with our family members decided to provide them with cooked food instead of dry ration.”
This initiative has garnered positive feedback from all. OC Mazumdar said, “People told us that if we distribute cooked meals it saves them from bearing the cost of spices, cooking gas or coal.”
The meals are prepared in the Noapara police station itself. “This is a convenient and cost-effective option for us since partnering with some other agency increases the cost,” said OC Mazumdar.
The cooked food is delivered by police personnel themselves in their own police vehicles. “We are distributing meals to the hawkers and beggars at the railway station, at the slum areas near Ratneswar cremation ghat, to the now unemployed people of the local brick kilns and others who are truly needy,” OC Mazumdar informed.
Mazumdar feels distributing food at the police station itself might lead to people taking undue advantages. “People who can afford food for themselves can turn up at the police station to reap the benefits. This leaves people who are actually poor deprived. Since we are acquainted with all the places and know well those who are in dire need of food, we are delivering it to them only,” OC Mazumdar explained.
“We have planned to distribute cooked food to the physically handicapped people who are now in extreme distress owing to the lockdown in the next few days,” he informed.
Proper sanitation measures like ensuring social distancing, wearing of face masks, gloves, using hand sanitizers are being ensured while cooking and distributing food. Face-masks are being provided to the beneficiaries and their hands are sanitized while distribution.
Limited funding poses a challenge for Noapara Police Station. “We are trying to optimize our resources and trying to do the best we can. We would like to expand our reach whenever we are ready,” shared the OC and added, “We wish everyone stays safe during these difficult times. Through Annapurna our aim is to ensure that the needy are able to get some food. If we are able to feed ourselves, it is our duty to ensure that others get something to eat as well.”