Mehfil Hall Relief Centre changes image of Madanpura in Mumbai with help to the poor migrants | Mumbai News


MUMBAI: A few minutes’ walk from Nagpada Junction, sits Madanpura’s Mehfil Hall, a community centre which hosted wedding receptions and birthday parties before the coronavirus-induced lockdown hit us. Since March 23, a day before the lockdown began, the hall has turned into a major centre for relief works. Taking food to the hungry migrants, the initiative has helped change the image of Madanpura, a densely-populated neighbourhood which is home to former workers of shut textile mills, small traders and taxi drivers.
Named Mehfil Hall Relief Centre, it reaches out to the poor, mainly migrant workers, daily wagers and pavement dwellers, daily with 18000 food packets for dinner and 14000 sehri (pre-dawn light meal in Ramzan). Headed by businessman Salim Kodia, the team has engaged volunteers at different places across the city—from Nagpada to Trombay and Kurla to Chembur—who take the food packets to the needy. Besides, it has distributed 4100 ration kits among the poor families.
Kodia said he was at home on the March 22 second when PM Narendra Modi had called for a voluntary lockdown and ordered for some rotis from a restaurant where takeaway service was allowed. “It took really a long time to get rotis. I just thought if I could face so much difficulty in fetching food, what would the poor migrants and daily wagers face. I decided to start this service,” he said. A kitchen came up and many local activists and community leaders joined the effort. Initially when the lockdown was very strict, the group hired four personnel from the home guards to accompany the Centre’s lorry carrying food packets to different points in the city.
“We have to maintain social distancing and yet reach out to the needy. At different places in the city our volunteers are ready to receive the packets and distribute them among the needy. Now hundreds of packets go to the home guards and Tata Institute of Social Services (TISS) too. Food packets go to hospitals too,” said NCP leader and former minorities’ commission chairman Naseem Siddiqui who is part of the committee. Kodia added the beneficiaries are migrants who don’t have families here and used to eat at Bhissis (eating houses) and hotels, closed since the lockdown.
How has the relief centre helped change the area’s image? “Madanpura is often depicted as poor ghetto where petty crimes breed. Here once Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters addressed and it has produced national-level football players. Now some locals have taken initiative to reach out to the needy. Oher community centres in the city are using the Madanpura model to reach out to the needy,” observed Suhail Ahmed, managing editor of leading Urdu paper The Urdu Times.

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