Migrant labourers from Bengal and Jharkhand would cook meals at the roadside stalls around Belghoria station every day for thousands of people.
They used to work in the 100-odd stalls and small eateries in the station area that are now shut because of the lockdown. So, they have to now depend on others for their food.
A local theatre group has come forward to provide them with food. Most of the workers hail from Asansol, Birbhum, Shantipur and Jharkhand, Debashis Sengupta, the director of Ethic Theatre Group, said.
“All these workers are jobless because the food stalls are closed. They are not eligible for ration and relief being supplied by the government because they are from other districts,” Sengupta said.
The workers would roam the station area the whole day and spend the night inside the stalls, going almost without any food, he said. “When we got to know of it, we decided to make some arrangements to provide them with food.”
A community kitchen has been set up for the workers. “The kitchen is unique in the sense; many among the workers are expert cooks and they are helping in the whole exercise of cooking meals,” he said. “Some of these boys have volunteered their services as cooks.”
The 20-year-old theatre group had been performing till March. The shows stopped when the Centre announced the lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. But the members got together, along with a few people of the area, to provide the poor and the jobless with food.
The group started providing lunch, prepared at Sengupta’s house, in March. When the number of recipients increased, the kitchen was set up on the station premises on April 14. Since then, the group has been providing 270-280 people with food daily.
The group initially started with rice, daal, a vegetable curry and at times a non-vegetarian item for lunch.
Sengupta and his wife, who is part of the theatre group, wanted to donate “a little extra”. “So, we have been sponsoring dinner, which consists of rotis, a vegetable curry and a boiled egg or a banana, since April 18,” Sengupta said.
Close to 110 people are served dinner every day.
There are a few doctors among the donors. The group has organised medical check-ups for the workers with the help of these doctors and provided them with medicines, too.
The rail authorities have agreed to allow the group to use a small place on the station premises for cooking.
The authorities of a temple have provided the group with utensils, which are used to cook 'bhog' on normal days.