People buy goods from the mobile stalls at Salt Lake in Kolkata on Thursday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)
The Panchayat and Rural Development Department of West Bengal government has started doorstep delivery of goods for the elderly in the Bidhannagar municipality area in North 24 Parganas, following the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19.
The services first started on March 22, the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the ‘Janata curfew’. However, the services continued due to the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
The department supplies goods with the help of 10 electric vehicles. Prior to the lockdown, these mobile vehicles used to sell goods at the local markets every day. It has also rolled out four static vehicles.
Soumyajit Das, senior official of the Panchayat Department, said: “We have solar refrigerators in these vehicles. So, these vehicles can carry several items, including meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, rice, pulses, flour, oil, spices and sweets. The elderly people call us at our official number and we deliver the items at their home.”
However, Das added that not only aged people, those who are sick or have other valid problems can also buy goods from these mobile stalls.
According to the Panchayat and Rural Development Department, it procures the materials through the West Bengal Comprehensive Area Development Corporation (WBCADC), which is associated with several self-help groups. These self-help groups produce several items, including honey and sweets. They also help in packaging of food and make hand sanitisers.
“We are concentrating mainly on aged residents as they are the most vulnerable ones to coronavirus infection. Also, during the lockdown it is difficult for them to step out to procure things from the market in absence of their children, in cases where they live outside the state, or cannot their domestic helps,” said Das.
“Fresh food items are available at reasonable prices. They are also delivered as soon as we order. Now, many people from our locality also started buying things from these mobile stalls,” said Dolly Chatterjee, 51, a resident of CA Island.
Besides, the department also has two stores — one at Mrittika Bhavan and the other at Panchayet Bhavan. There are eight more franchise stores at Sonarpur, Andul, Camac Street, Satyajit Roy Film Institute, Baguiati, New Town, Garia and Nabanna.
“Before the lockdown, our average sale was Rs 15,000 per day. Now, it has gone up to Rs 60,000 per day. The self-help groups are also making more profits.”
“We also supply materials to the government’s Sufal Bangla stalls,” said Das. The Sufal Bangla is an initiative of the Agriculture Marketing Department to promote agricultural goods of the state.
A senior official of Sufal Bangla, Goutam Mukherjee, said: “We have 162 counters all over the state, including 124 in Kolkata.” He added, “We sell all grocery and vegetable goods through our 40 static counters and sell only vegetables in other 122 stalls.”
Other than Kolkata, Sufal Bangla has stalls in Santiniketan, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and other cities cross the states. Every day these stalls remain open from 7.30 am to 10.30 am.
Mukherjee also said, “Our sale increased at least three times during the lockdown.”