Stories from Tripura

Roti Bank: Feeding the unfed

Roti Bank in Agartala, Tripura

Jaydip Chakrabarti

 September 26, 2018:

The strange nomenclature – ‘Roti’ bank immediately grabs attention and during the last couple of months, these two words have captured the imagination of people of the State – thanks to initiatives of dedicated members of ‘Roti Bank Foundation’ who are volunteering in feeding the socially discarded, poor, wanderers, lunatic and the hungry. Intriguing may it sound, the Roti bank initiative has a significant relation with  something less philanthropic and grand in ideas : Actually, it has got the relation with, ‘Mumbai notorious pick pocketers’. And as the things stand today, those Mumbai pickpocketers willy- nilly  played the detonator to a social movement of kind in Tripura.

“Once, pickpocketers in Mumbai pushed me into helpless despair – however, inadvertently they changed my life completely for a noble cause”, said Debashish Chakraborty – a Homeopathic practitioner of Agartala and founder of the Foundation.

Walking down the memory lane, Chakraborty said, “After losing my money and train ticket, I was sitting helplessly in a Mumbai rail station – I observed that a Group of people was feeding wanderers – commonly called as Vagabond – in the station. After a while, one person of the Group approached me – later identified himself as Shankar Pingulkar – and humbly asked if I would eat food prepared for poor people”.

With quenching stomach and utter helplessness, I realized the pain of going to bed in empty stomach. Although visibly perplexed at prevailing situation, I grabbed the food.

Chakraborty continued and said, “Knowing that I had lost my money to pickpocketing, Pingulkar gave me Rs 16,500 and told me not to return the money – but if possible, to spend it for starting Roti Bank venture, and this is how our Roti Bank Foundation came into existence on May 29 last”.

“It was a humble beginning – we would cook food at our homes and distribute those to seven wanderers at the Agartala station”, Chakraborty commented and added, now the number of members and volunteers of the Foundation has swelled into 20.

Roti Bank: Feeding the unfed

Roti Bank: Feeding the unfed

“Thanks to community participation and selfless services of our members, presently we are feeding 100-120 wanderers every night at several points in Agartala – Tulshibati market area, Rabindra Bhavan, Lake Choumuhani, Radha nagar, Rail station and other areas.”

It is important that Roti Bank concept is getting people’s support and several individuals, clubs and restaurants are joining hands with noble initiative. During Vishwakarma Puja, several clubs donated food while individuals are sponsoring meals as part of celebrating birth or marriage anniversaries. Besides, individuals are donating or sponsoring food materials – like rice, dal, fish and meat.

“The Foundation is running on public support, no assistance from any corporate institutes or whatsoever, so far.  On every evening, our foundation is distributing rice, dal vegetables and at least once in a week fish or meat. For 100-120 people, members cook the food items everyday at a rented house in Dhaleswar and daily expenditure stands at minimum Rs 2000-2500 excluding sundry expenses and house rent.

Arranging the fund is a major hurdle, however, members are also contributing generously. We are determined not to discontinue the initiative for a single day”, said Beauti Shil – a member of the Foundation.

Roti Bank in Agartala, Tripura

Roti Bank in Agartala, Tripura

“At least, a rent-free place to cook food items would come to us as a great help”, Shil said added, Activities of Roti Bank Foundation have been expanded to Ambassa and Teliamura. In association with ‘Satarupa’ NGO, our Foundation is feeding 25 wanderers while Nine are being fed in Teliamura. The Foundation has already applied to the Minister Swantana Chakma and other dignitaries for help to expand and enhance the initiative.

Sharing her experiences, Beauti Shil said, it is an immense pleasure to feed the hungry people, however, feeding mentally unbalanced wanderers is a challenging task as they try flee when food is offered.

Promising to share more of her experiences, Beauti Shil signed off in a hurry and rushed to Tulshibati market area where her team assembled to distribute food to wanderers. Before she left for Tulshibati, she gave  phone number of the Foundation – 7005942548 so that anyone interested to join hands with the noble initiative may give a call. (Courtesy: Tripura Times)

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