Mumbai’s homeless to get free ration

Sandeep Ashar
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The lockdown in India presents a grim situation for Mumbai's homeless who have nowhere to go.

In a bid to help the poor and the homeless of Mumbai cope with the unprecedented lockdown measures, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday extended free ration supplies to them. To begin with, ration for three weeks will be provided to the homeless.

Uddhav took the decision on Thursday, following which the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC was asked to implement the measures.

Mumbai, with most COVID-19 cases in India, has an estimated 2,00,000 homeless people, and as the rest of state's residents are being told to stay indoors, the homeless find themselves in a vulnerable position.

With the homeless population seen as medically high-risk, sources said that Uddhav has also asked authorities to explore the demand raised by charities to house the homeless in temporary shelters. In several countries grappling with COVID-19, governments have invoked emergency legislations to commandeer hotels to self-isolate the homeless.

Sitaram Shelar, Director, Centre for Promoting Democracy, welcomed the move, and said that the NGOs and the community outfits working in the sector would be willing to assist the government in identification of the targeted group and the distribution work.

Additional Municipal Commisioner Jayshree Bhoj confirmed the move, saying that the civic body was in touch with the rationing controller's office, and charities to work out implementational modalities.

According to a rough estimate arrived at by government agencies, about 10 per cent of the homeless posses ration cards, and so would be eligible for ration supplies through the state's public distribution system.

"The plan is to extend free supplies to rest of them," said Bhoj.

Senior state officials, meanwhile, said that Uddhav has appealed to top MNCs and industry captains to donate ration supplies for the homeless.