Three cars stacked with food have been criss-crossing the city for the past few days.
The occupants of each car have been stopping at rail stations, hospitals and slums to distribute food to the poor and destitute.
On Sunday, the cars’ stops included Beleghata ID Hospital, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, SSKM Hospital, Sealdah and Howrah rail stations and the slum areas in Dhakuria, Park Circus and Taratala.
At the hospitals, the recipients comprised relatives and friends of patients. Many of them were from outside Calcutta. They had camped on the outdoor premises of the hospitals. Rickshaw-pullers, mutiyas (people who ferry load on vans or on their backs), coolies, ragpickers, beggars and many out-of-work labourers were among the recipients at most other stops.
The menu — steamed rice, daal and a mishmash of seasonal vegetables.
“We have started a special Durga Puja drive keeping in mind that some are staying at their homes and some are venturing out to enjoy the festivities but many people maybe going hungry during the Pujas,” Satnam Singh Ahluwalia, chairman of the IHA Foundation, said. “Therefore, we are celebrating this festival by feeding the needy and hungry at various parts of the city.”
The foundation, which is behind the drive, has been instrumental in providing more than a million people with meals during the pandemic, according to organisers.
What had started as a drive to feed the poor at gurdwaras during the lockdown gradually shifted to food being carried on wheels and distributed to the needy across the city and suburbs. After completing over 100 days of food delivery on the trot till July, the drive was back again to feed people on days of total lockdown in the state.
The puja drive started last Wednesday and will continue till Lakshmi Puja, an organizer said. The menu is simple but the food is cooked every day and served hot.
The Saptami menu was pulao and chana masala. Khichdi and subzi were served on Ashtami. On some days, the meal is followed by a desert like chutney, boondi (sweetened, fried chickpea flour) or kheer.
“The civic body and police have supported the drive. Around 3,000 people are being provided with meals every day during the puja drive,” an organizer said.
A crowd forms every time an IHA car reaches a distribution spot. Volunteers get off the vehicle and get about setting the gathering in order, asking people to maintain distance and to stand in a queue.
At most places, food is served on the spot. But many people prefer to bring their utensils and take the food home. Some take the food home wrapped in polythene packets.
“Many people try to make two meals out of one. Many people are still out of work and staring at hunger,” an IHA volunteer said.