New Delhi: It has been a gala week for Karan. The 12year-old, who lives on the streets, has always begged for his food. “Ever since these uncles began their protest, we have been getting free food. So, we don’t have to stand at the traffic intersections to beg now,” the boy said at Singhu border.
Accompanied by four friends, Karan arrived at Singhu to see what the fuss was all about. “That is when we realised we could get free food and a place to sleep in this cold weather,” he smiled brightly. There are many street children like Karan at the numerous langars at the protest site, happy to be receiving food without having to beg for it.
“I had mooli, aloo and gobhi paratha with pickle and tea for breakfast,” narrated Kunal, who stays at Shriram Colony nearby. “Then for lunch, dal, kadhi, chapati and rice, pakoras in the evening and roti-sabzi for dinner.” The nine-year-old Class IV student never had full meals like these earlier. “My parents are labourers who lost their jobs during the lockdown. Having three meals is something I cannot even imagine,” the youngster said. “Mere paas to lunch box bhi nahi hai and daily kabhi doodh bhi nahi milta (I don’t even have a lunch box to take food to school and I don’t get milk every day).”
With school closed, Kanika, a slum dweller and daughter of a domestic help and a labourer, goes to the trash piles daily to pick out discarded bottles. Kanika, also nine, has been singing songs and shouting slogans alongside the farmer protesters. Vimal, 12, also supports the farmers “because they give us food”. He said, “We have been coming to the protest site for the last five days. The farmers give us extra food and fruits for our family and neighbours.” Along with impoverished children, the agitating farmers are also feeding local people and travellers stuck on the blocked road.