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Footfall doubles as Amma Canteens serve all
The restrictions being imposed on NGOs in distributing food to the homeless and stranded persons, coupled with the decision to provide food at free of cost at Amma Canteens have doubled the footfall at canteens across the city these days.
According to a Chennai Corporation official, before the lockdown around 6.5 lakh people used to visit Amma Unavagams across Chennai on an average a day. “After the implementation of the lockdown, the number of customers increased to more than 8 lakhs. Now, with the government announcing complete lockdown and taking initiative to provide free food have increased the footfall to 10 lakhs to 12 lakhs per day. All types of persons, including homeless, are now visiting the canteens,” the official said.
Majority of the customers visiting the Amma Canteens are homeless persons, who were taking food from the NGOs and volunteers. Since the Amma Canteens started to serve free food, several homeless persons, as well as guest workers, have turned towards the low-cost canteens. As per a survey conducted by the civic body, there are around 9,000 homeless persons in the city but the civic body could only accommodate less than 2,000 persons in its shelters.
A few days ago, the civic body had issued an order to provide free food at as many as 407 Amma Canteens in the city and collect the expenses from the volunteers. Presently, the civic body houses around 2,400 persons, including homeless and guest workers in its shelters and an equal number of guest workers and stranded passengers have been accommodated in community halls and schools.
Rajasekar, a pavement dweller in Kodambakkam said he is eating in a nearby Amma Canteen since he came to the city. “Even after the lockdown, I continue to eat in the same canteen, now free of cost,” he added.