The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which was providing cooked food at the city’s night shelters, has “temporarily discontinued” the service citing shortage of finances to run the programme.
According to officials, the Foundation was providing 14,000-16,000 meals a day at the 200-odd night shelters located across the city.
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Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which manages the night shelters, was paying Rs 18.34 per meal, which costs Rs 30. While it covered 60% of the cost of supplying the meals, the Foundation generated funds to meet the remaining 40% cost.
“Unfortunately, post Covid, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has been falling short of getting financial support to fund the full deficit incurred for this programme. Akshaya Patra had put in a request to DUSIB to allow it to stop the service several months back. DUSIB confirmed that we can stop our services to night shelters from September 16,” the Foundation said in a statement.
The Delhi government, however, said it would continue distributing free cooked meals to the homeless at all its shelter homes. “This is the first work of any responsible government to pay attention towards the poor,” its statement read.
The Delhi government had started providing free meals to the homeless in March 2020 through shelter management agencies.
From July 2021, the Foundation took over the task and started supplying hot food, prepared at its three kitchens in the city – as a pilot project which continued till January 31, 2022. From February 1, DUSIB and Akshaya Patra jointly shared the cost of the meals. In the month of April, the Foundation again bore the entire cost of the three meals through the funds it received from its donors.
DUSIB member-expert Bipin Rai tweeted late Saturday evening that the foundation would continue providing the meals to the homeless. An Akshaya Patra official, however, said a call was made by DUSIB requesting them to continue the facility but no official commitment was given to them. “We will discuss the matter internally on Monday and revert to DUSIB,” the official said.
The government will soon float a tender to invite agencies to provide food at the night shelters, a senior DUSIB official said.
Sunil Kumar Aledia, executive director of Centre for Holistic Development, said the government must immediately start Jan Aahaar vans in the interim to ensure the homeless do not sleep without food.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said he has written to LG VK Saxena and CM Arvind Kejriwal to intervene and get the food supply restored.