About 500 kg of dal, 600 kg of vegetables and one tonne of rice is what it takes to feed thousands of people at the Sis Ganj Gurdwara in Chandni Chowk on an average day.
The langar or community kitchen at the popular gurdwara has always been busy, with everyone from local shopkeepers and foreign tourists to the faithful and the destitute sitting down for a meal.
But for the past two weeks, the lunch rush at the langar hall has been more hectic than usual, and officials of the gurdwara management say extra food is being cooked.
That’s because the usual lunch crowd is now being joined by daily wage labourers, who have been left without work due to the ongoing cash crunch.
With job offers drying up and their pockets empty, labourers from around Old Delhi are making their way to gurdwaras and other religious places in search of a meal.
Every day since November 9, when the government withdrew Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes from circulation, a group of workers who gather at Hauz Qazi Chowk has made its way to Sis Ganj Gurdwara around 2 p.m. Making the daily 1 km pilgrimage for food provides the only meal for most.
Before the cash crunch, the carpenters, painters and construction workers would gather at the chowk in the morning and be picked up for jobs around the city. Now, they wait there all day, hoping to find work.
“We haven’t had any work since the notebandi [demonetisation] was announced. So every day all of us go to the gurdwara to eat one meal,” said Gulfam, a painter, pointing towards the out-of-work labourers sitting around the chowk.
‘No other option’
Sujit, a welder who also has had no work for two weeks, added: “We don’t have any other option, so we eat lunch at the gurdwara. Sometimes people go to the temples when there is food being distributed there.”
At the gurdwara, the kitchen continues to serve vegetables, lentils, rice, roti and halwa for all.
On Friday afternoon, the staff and volunteers were busy serving potatoes and dal for lunch and preparing a turnip dish for dinner.
The kitchen in-charge, who did not want to be named, scurried around the rotisection, where an automated roti machine was being repaired.
“It can make 4,000 rotis in an hour and uses 10 sacks of flour every day,” he said, adding that he hoped it would be repaired before dinner.
Ravinder Singh Lovely, the chairperson of Sis Ganj Gurdwara and a member of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said that the langar had always been busy. About 8,000 people eat here every day.
“But we have seen an increase in the number of people coming since the demonetisation announcement,” he said, adding that gurdwaras across Delhi feed more than a lakh visitors every day.