Kathua panchayat skips a meal every day to feed hungry during lockdown

Setting an example, about 2,500 residents of a panchayat in Kathua district Saturday decided to skip their one meal everyday to feed the hungry as the coronavirus lockdown has snatched livelihoods of many and left them without food, despite best government efforts. Sarpanch Shiv Dev Singh of Panchayat Baira-Buorthian said a resolution to this effect was passed by the Panchayat, which has a population of over 2,500, at a special meeting The 2500 residents implemented it immediately, he told PTI, raising the slogan save food – save the nation . It is a token contribution from our panchayat in the country’s fight against coronavirus. Jammu and Kashmir was put under complete lockdown on March 22, two days ahead of the 21-day nationwide shutdown announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to combat the spread of novel coronavirus. A total of 207 people – 168 in Kashmir and 39 in Jammu – have tested positive in the Union Territory, out of whom four have died, three in the Valley and one in Jammu. After the lockdown was announced, migrant labourers working in J&K got stranded with no work. Also, local daily wage-earners lost their livelihoods as all commercial activities and labour work came to a halt. Although the government has taken various steps to reach out to the affected people, complaints about underprivileged sections running out of ration and money have been coming from different parts of Jammu region. Police and other security agencies including Army and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have also come forward joining hands with NGOs, social and political outfits and even individuals to ensure no one sleeps hungry . Sarpanch Shiv Dev Singh urged other panchayats to follow suit to ensure such people get help. He said his panchayat will identify the needy people and would reach out to them to ensure that they survive this lockdown with honour and dignity . Social activist Sukesh Khajuria, a resident of Jammu, welcomed people showering flower petals on those on the forefront of the battle against coronavirus but said we need much more than tokenism . The stark reality is that many people are running short of food and money due to the ongoing lockdown and we need to strengthen the efforts of the government to reach out to such people, he said. Reports from Doda said the tribal population living in the remote hilly slopes of the Chenab valley district are facing a very adverse situation. The Gujjar tribe traditionally resides in small hamlets near high-altitude meadows far away from the populated areas and treks downhill to the villages and towns with their produce (milk) and labour work to earn their daily income. “I have not earned a penny for the last 15 days, as the work has come to a standstill. We are without money and left with no essentials as a result of which my four children and elderly parents are starving for the past two days,” said Mohammad Salim Gujjar of Alan-Sharekhi village, hoping some government help would come sooon. Hundreds of Gujjar families reside on the slopes in small hamlets like Alan-Sharekhi, Dooru-Sartingal, Kota Top, Darie, Ladoo, Rajpura, Kilroo and Ghil-kanaan near high altitude meadows Padri, Qatari, Kainthi, Gildhar, Sarola, Kilroodhar, Guldanda and Bhal-Padri of the hilly district. The families of many local labourers who are stranded in neighbouring states including Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are also looking towards the government for assistance to overcome the crisis. “I have been borrowing money to survive as my husband has got stranded at Shimla due to lockdown. We want the government to at least help us get back our bread-earners ,” said Gulshana, the wife of stranded labourer Abdul Gani Additional Deputy Commissioner, Bhadarwah, Rakesh Kumar, when contacted, assured necessary help would be made available to the tribal population. “We have got enough stock of foodgrains with us. We will immediately send a team to these hamlets and ensure delivery of ration to them at the earliest,” he said. Reports from Samba district said over 150 families of village Dunai in Sumb block are without food as the local residents have no money left with them. We heard the government is providing three months free ration to the poor but no one had come to us so far. We were working in the unorganised sector and earned our wages daily. We have no money to feed our families, said Babu Ram, a local resident, fearing starvation in case the help does not reach them. The district administration in Jammu distributed free ration among over 400 stranded labourers who are living in a slum near Jammu railway station. The workers, most of whom earn a living by handling goods at the railway station, had complained of starvation due to the lockdown. The government distributed ration kits containing five kg Atta, mustard oil and other items among the workers on Friday, officials said. Police had also come to the rescue of over 40 families consisting of 160 people in Akhnoor sector in the outskirts of Jammu as part of its we care for you campaign. Police acted after receiving a call from the stranded labourers from Bihar and Haryana that they are running out of ration, an official said, adding ration kits were distributed among the labourers with voluntary contribution from Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel.

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