Khaana Chahiye (translated as Need Food) is a people-driven initiative, which is now a people’s movement powered by non-government organisations like Litmus Test Project, Project Mumbai and Bharat Uttan Sangh. It is co-founded by Ruben Mascarenhas, Pathik Muni, Shishir Joshi, Neeti Goyal, Rakesh Singh, KK Mookhey, Swaraj Shetty and Anik Gadia. This campaign aims to conduct food relief operations caused by the Covid-19 lockdown by collaborating with all stakeholders like the government, civil society and industry.

The problem of hunger is central to human existence and inequalities otherwise invisible or camouflaged in the city’s landscape, have been amplified during the lockdown. As a collective, we are striving towards solving this hunger problem in a metropolis like Mumbai.

We quantified demand for food across various data points and then married it with supply, by activating unused kitchen capacity, through unused restaurants. Our resources were primarily raised using crowdfunding and corporate sponsorship.

Through this initiative, our goal is to reach out to the marginalized communities living in the underprivileged pockets across the city who face the harshest effects during a crisis. The current pandemic led to an economic shutdown of Mumbai that hampered these communities. As per the 2011 census, Mumbai is home to 7.1 million migrants from all the states and the number has only increased since then. These migrant workers are mostly employed as daily wage labourers or engaged in menial jobs. The lockdown adversely impacted this informal sector by completely halting their wages. The uncertainty associated with this problem led to reverse migration.

While the world is being assailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is singularly in India, that we are witnessing a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions. In lieu of this situation, we believed that with the administration being overwhelmed, it was imperative for civil society organizations to conduct relief efforts alongside government operations, thus complementing them. Khaana Chahiye started its operations on 29th March with over 1200 meals and scaled up to over 45 lakh meals as of 13th July. Over this time, we received donations from partners like Parle who helped us with biscuits. We have distributed 10.64 lakh biscuit packets in our operations. The lockdown was relaxed by the government on 8th June; however, we have continued our operations to provide food and supplies to the underprivileged, as the pandemic progresses and reaches levels of community spread.

Our operations spanned across Mumbai’s 5 arterial roads -Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, SV Road, Link Road and LBS Road, slum clusters, and transit point relief operations at city’s key exit points. We have assisted the BMC by adopting three railway stations: CSMT, Bandra and Kurla terminuses for serving stranded migrants travelling through the special Shramik Expresses commissioned by the Government of India. Over this period, we have served 281 trains, catering to more than 5 lakh passengers leaving the city with an additional 1 lakh migrants who left by the road, by either walking or through hitchhiking on trucks. The transit operations on road was organized at key exit points: Majiwada Junction (Thane), Dahisar Check Naka, Vashi Road (Sanpada) and Panvel Junction.

Alongside free cooked meals, we supported disadvantaged families with grocery kits which included essentials like rice, flour, sugar, oil but also masks, sanitizers, sanitary pads, juices and biscuits. The support was extended to vulnerable communities including rickshaw drivers, commercial sex workers, tribal groups and institutions like LGBTQIA+ support centres, orphanages, old age homes and relief shelters. While conducting these operations, we also supported local initiatives and assisted the Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation to distribute grocery kits in the city, at their request.

Khaana Chahiye is also about innovation and enterprise, during these bleak times. Our goal developed in the course of this campaign to improve the crisis management infrastructure in Mumbai working alongside the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the State Government of Maharashtra. Considering this objective, we are currently working to generate a “Hunger Map” of Mumbai. The idea of the hunger map for Mumbai is both academic as well as entrepreneurial in nature. This will become the basis for entrepreneurs like us, to innovate and create impact at scale, by working towards eliminating hunger among vulnerable populations in the city. Needless to say, policy advocacy for hunger as a human right and governmental efforts will be anchored in it. It is the first of its kind project in the country which would use the experiences of our campaign along with data collected by us as well as the MCGM. It will be supported by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation and the Dr Ambedkar Centre for Social Justice – a joint initiative between the University of Mumbai and London School of Economics and Political Science

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