Children from financially weak families in a north Calcutta pocket received a glass of milk each on the first day of the Bengali New Year, while their mothers got to take home milk packets, vermicelli, sugar and biscuits to last a few days.
The milk was bought from milk traders in central and north Calcutta who have been incurring huge losses because most sweet shops, their biggest customers, are closed during the lockdown, sources said.
The drive was aimed at helping both local milk traders and the children who have not been able to afford milk.
The minister of state for women and child development and social welfare, Sashi Panja, handed over glasses of milk to over 60 underprivileged children in Gauri Shankar Lane.
“Today’s day has a special significance. We have distributed milk, sugar, biscuits and vermicelli among mothers here so that they can cook payesh for their little ones on this special day. Because that is nutritional and healthy, too,” Panja said.
Children from the neighbourhood were made to sit in chairs, maintain social distancing norms, and were offered a glass of milk each.
Some milk traders, who depend on supplying milk to sweet shops, have been complaining about huge losses during the lockdown. “With most sweet shops closed, our business has taken a hit. We are also finding it difficult to transport milk because of multiple restrictions,” a milk trader in central Calcutta said.
The government has allowed sweet shops to remain open for a few hours every day but shopowners have been complaining of huge losses.
“This is directly affecting the milk industry,” the milk trader said.
Several NGOs, individuals and police stations have come forward to distribute essential supplies, including atta, uncooked rice, pulses and dry food items during the lockdown.