Even as India entered into a nationwide lockdown on Wednesday amid the COVID-19 pandemic, homeless persons on the streets of Hyderabad are among the worst-hit in Telangana. However, citizens' groups in various parts of the city have pitched in to cook and distribute food for the needy.
In some areas, while donors complain that they are facing issues with the police, in other areas, police are taking it upon themselves to distribute food.
In King's Palace at Falaknuma, food is prepared for about 1,000 people and is packed and distributed mainly to Niloufer and Osmania hospitals as of now. One of the donors, on the condition of anonymity, said that distribution has become a problem as they are being stopped by the police when they head out.
“Yesterday at the hospital, police told us that they would take legal action against us and told us what we were doing is illegal. They said that it results in the gathering of people in groups at the distribution site,” said the donor.
On the other hand, in Cyberabad, the city's IT hub, the traffic police coordinate with volunteers and distribute food in a police vehicle.
A group of nine friends (Sai Teja K, Ramanjeet Singh, M Prashanth, V Vinay, Surendra, Anumod, Vidyasagar, Pradeep and Rakesh), who work in software companies in the IT hub, have been arranging food for 200 people everyday over the past three days.
Instead of pooling together and increasing the risk of a potential spread, the friends are co-ordinating online. From among them, one person coordinates each day with the authorities in person. That one person, along with the police, would go to locations within the limits of the Cyberabad commissionerate in a vehicle and distribute food to the needy and homeless.
Some of the locations include Kukatpally, Miyapur, Rajendranagar, Balanagar and Saroornagar.
Speaking to TNM, one of the volunteers, Sai Teja said, "We have identified places during our daily commute and we have noted the locations where we often see homeless people and are distributing food there."
“They might be very vulnerable as they do not have a roof over their head and they might be the worst hit if community transmission begins,” he added.
Cyberabad Traffic Police Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Vijay Kumar, who was also coordinating with the volunteers said, “It’s the responsibility of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) to take care of them and to place them in shelter homes, but several of them are still out on the roads. So we are distributing food since a group came forward to source the food. A vehicle was provided for them and social distancing is being maintained when the food is being distributed.”
When contacted, GHMC officials said that there are already 37 shelter homes in place in the city and several donors also visit the shelters to donate food.
Meanwhile, the GHMC continues with its 'Annapurna' scheme, which provides nutritious meals for Rs 5. During the lockdown period, the government has kept the scheme running, so that the needy can approach the stalls and get a meal.