1,600 kg aata, 1,200 kg rice daily — how Delhi’s Bangla Sahib Gurdwara is feeding 75k people

Meal prepared in big utensils at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara’s community kitchen | ThePrint Photo | Manisha Mondal

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New Delhi: The Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in the heart of Delhi has seldom let any hungry visitor go without food. With the pandemic now leaving thousands scrambling for their daily meals, the gurdwara’s community kitchen has taken the lead to feed over 75,000 people every day.

The kitchen uses around 1,600 kg of aata, 1,200 kg rice and 700-800 kg of dal daily to prepare the meals. The food is then delivered to around 17 places across Delhi-NCR. A typical thali includes rice, chapatis, ghee dal and a different type of sabji is cooked every day.

As many as 53 sevaks work to put the entire process of cooking and delivering together.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management (DSGM), which looks after the preparation and distribution of the daily langar, told ThePrint that the number of people has been increasing ever since they first started distributing food after the nationwide lockdown was announced on 24 March.

“It’s our religion to serve the needy, no matter what the circumstances are. Nothing big about this, we are just doing our duty and want to feed more people everyday. We want to make sure nobody sleeps hungry. The kitchen doesn’t stop till all the food requirements are met for the day,” said Harbhej Singh, in-charge of the gurdwara’s community kitchen.

The gurdwara follows a systematic procedure to make sure everything is ready on time. There are designated in-charges to look after different aspects of the process — storing ration, chopping vegetables, washing, cleaning, cooking, loading and unloading the langar items from delivery trucks and maintaining the accounts book.

The entire premises of the gurdwara is also divided work-wise, to ensure there is adequate social distancing.

Chapatis being prepared by sevaks at the gurdwara | ThePrint Photo | Manisha Mondal

Earlier this week, the Delhi Police performed a full-sirened ‘Parikrama‘ (circumambulation) of the gurdwara as a token of appreciation for its service towards the society.

Also read: India’s rural economy is facing its biggest challenge, and the pain is only getting worse

Six cooks start preparing food since 2 am every day

The langar is prepared by six professionals who have been working in the gurdwara for several years. In the past couple of weeks, these cooks have been working around 15-16 hours every day to meet the growing demand for meals.

“We start working from 2 am since the food needs to be ready by 11 in the morning. We don’t have a fixed shift, whoever feels tired rests and another joins in,” Nikhattar Singh, one of the six cooks, told ThePrint.

Nikhattar’s family is in Jalandhar, Punjab, and he has been working in the gurdwara for the past 10 years.

He also said that he doesn’t mind the hours, as long as he is able to serve people. “It is an honour to be able to help people in this crisis. My religion has taught me to put others in front of myself, I feel content at the end of the day when we know that we are doing our part,” he added.

The community kitchen also has three chapati-making machines that produce around 4,500 rotis in an hour.

“I have been cooking food here since the last six years. However, this is a different time. People cannot come to the gurdwara now due to the lockdown. So we try to provide food to as many as possible. It makes me happy when the quantity required increases. This means we are able to reach out to more people every day,” said Kartar Singh, who prepares dal for the langar.

While the cooks and other helpers work together, they make sure social distancing guidelines are maintained. They also keep themselves hydrated with juice and water at regular intervals. The community kitchen is cleaned after every preparation to maintain hygiene.

Food transported in huge containers and uploaded in vehicles for delivery | ThePrint Photo | Manisha Mondal

Food distributed via NDMC vehicles

The DSGM said ration for the meals is funded and provided for by donors.

“The donations have increased manifold since the lockdown was imposed. From vegetables to spices and ration (oil, rice, atta and dal), everything is given by the people. We also receive donations, which is used to buy anything that we need,” said Harbhej, the kitchen in-charge.

The DSGM also maintains a daily log sheet of the food distributed and the funds spent.

“I do it daily to make sure the funds are spent properly. We keep records of what items we have received, what have been used and what is needed. The people who donate are given receipts,” said Manjeet Singh, who maintains the records.

The food distribution is done in collaboration with the Delhi government through the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) vehicles. The first NDMC vehicle comes between 10-10.30 am every day and delivers food to the sub-divisional office (SDM) across the national capital. This food is then distributed to all the nearby areas by the SDM teams.

One mini truck of the gurdwara is used to transport langar to various NGOs and other welfare societies.

“The gurdwara has been providing us with 25,000 chapatis every day since 15 April, which is then distributed in various areas such as Bhangel, Yakubpur, Nagla Charan Dass and Sorkha,” said Priyam Bharadwaj from the NGO Feed My Noida.

Bangla Sahib
Containers being loaded in NDMC vehicles for distribution of food | ThePrint Photo | Manisha Mondal

Also read: A look inside Rajasthan’s closed highway dhabas when lockdown leaves no one to feed


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