A roti bank in UP town to fight battle against hunger

Freshly cooked food is served to people who cannot afford a daily meal

A roti bank in UP  town to fight battle against hunger

They call it a bank and it indeed looks like one. It does help the poor and helpless but does not charge them anything.

Welcome to the “Roti Bank”, a bank that delivers “roti” (chapati) and vegetables to beggars and others, who cannot  afford a meal, in Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba town, about 250 km from Lucknow.

In the evening, members of the “bank” get down to their job. They first collect rotis and vegetables from different households and then distribute the same among the beggars and the needy across the town. “At present, we are serving around 400 people every day but we plan to increase it by at least 100 in the next few days,” says Mohammed Asgar, a young member of the bank.

Speaking to Deccan Herald from Mahoba over telephone, Asgar said that the thought of such an initiative struck them when they saw some children begging at a bus stop in the town one early morning.

“We told children that we would give them food but not money. They readily agreed and we had them have food at a  eatery nearby. The children also said that they would stop begging if they get food,” he said.

At that point, they thought of the initiative. “We knew we couldn’t do it alone and needed the support of the common people, who were not only capable of lending us a helping hand but also willing to do so,” Asgar said.

The president of the Bundeli Samaj, an organisation of the people of UP’s Bundelkhand region, Haji Mutthan and convener Tara Patkar took up the cudgels to set up the Roti Bank.

A group of 50 enthusiastic youngsters from the town came forward to join the initiative. The group itself symbolised communal amity as it included both Hindus and Muslims.

Asgar said that they spoke to the residents and sought their help in providing food to the beggars and the needy. “We received treme­ndous support from the people,” he said. The entire Mahoba town was divided into six zones with each of the zone having an in-charge. “Me and my friend Shahbaz are in-charge of zone one,” said Asgar.

Around 6 pm, the teams fan out to different parts to collect food packets that contain two chapatis and a cooked vegetable along with pickle and some salad. “The food is fresh as it is cooked in the afternoon by the womenfolk,” Asgar pointed out.

Around 7 pm, the teams get ready to distribute the food packets in their zones. “The distribution work continues for next couple of hours. We make sure that all the food packets are delivered to the needy ones,” he added.

“Currently we are serving 400 needy people and most of them are beggars or physically challenged people. We serve only vegetarian food. The idea is that no one should have any problem in having them,” he said.

Asgar said that the best part of the work was that the team members use their own transport to distribute the food packets. “Most of us have motorbikes or scooters and we use them for this purpose,” he said.

These youngsters have volunteered for the job. “A majority of the volunteers are engaged in either some job or have their own business. In the day time they are busy in their work but make sure to spare some time in the evening,” he said.

Asgar owns a medical store. “I open my medical store in the morning and am present there till almost 6 pm after which I join the Roti Bank work,” he said.

He rues that the team has not been able to serve all the needy people. “There are so many needy ones in Mahoba and we are able to serve only a tiny percentage of them. We want to expand it,” he said.

The Roti Bank aims at expanding its network further. “We plan to increase the number of beneficiaries to at least 500 in the next few days. The support from the local people is simply overwhelming. We expect more food packets… and the more packets, the more number of beneficiaries will be benefited,” he pointed out.

The group, which is currently providing only one meal, plans to make it two meals a day in the near future. “Our only wish is that no one should die of hunger,” he said.

“Yes I am a religious person. I keep Roja (fasting during the month of Ramzan) and offer namaz (prayer) but I know that we will be blessed by the Almighty more if we serve these poor and helpless people,” he added.

Asgar wants the youth in other parts of the country to take-up a similar initiative. “It will be a true service to society,” he said.

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