Meet the young team behind Chandigarh’s ambitious Annapurna kitchen

Chandigarh It’s 12.30pm. A group of ten women enter the kitchen set up at Karuna Sadan, Sector 11. They are there to prepare food for the newly launched scheme Annapurna Akshaypatra of the UT Indian Red Cross Society, which provides meals for just ₹10 to economically weaker sections. 
Soon after entering the kitchen, the women wear aprons and caps before getting down to work. One of them cleans the area, while other rush to wash potatoes. The potatoes are boiled in huge vessels in the modern kitchen especially set up for the project. Also, huge machines worth Rs 70 lakh have been procured to knead flour and roll out chapatis. 
In one go, 2,000 chappatis roll out of the machines. The women between the age group of 18 and 35 are excited and move from one corner of the kitchen to another to prepare the vegetable. They are assisted by five youths, who are just 18. Soon after the chapatis and the vegetable is ready, the packaging starts, and by around 5.45pm the food packets are stuffed in the food vans. 
As of now, 500 packets are being prepared, but keeping in view the demand, the number will be increased to 1,000. Sources in the administration say the supply may be increased up to 10,000 packets within six months. 
In all 16 women and five youths have been engaged for the job. The women include students and homemakers, while the boys are students. They are putting up in Ram Darbar, Colony Number 4 and neighbouring areas. 
They have been attending training in computer and stitching, being imparted by the NGO Sewa Bharti. Talking to Hindustan Times, they said they were selected and imparted training for three months to work in the kitchen. They were trained at the Mansa Devi temple kitchen and Sector 34 gurdwara.
Red Cross joint secretary SS Saini said: “The women and youngsters are happy to be associated with the project and have been diligently performing the task.” 
Sources in the administration said the term of contract and the salary to be offered to the selected candidates would be finalised in a couple of days. They are expected to be paid between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000 per month. They will be working for about five hours from 1pm to 6pm. 
 Reena, a homemaker from Ram Darbar, said: “I used to attend stitching classes at Sewa Bharti and was selected for the project. It is a good initiative and has given me a chance to help my husband by earning.” 
Four 18-year-old girl students Ruchi, Poonam, Manju and Chanda, who are undertaking courses at Sewa Bharti, said: “Working with the prestigious project of the UT Administration will give us exposure and some money to help our families.”
Echoing same sentiments, Amit of Colony No. 4 said: “We are six members in the family and this job has given me an opportunity to help my father run the household. I am about to start college and this job will help me make some money.”
The scheme is already a hit among people across the city as they rush to the food vans set up at five locations to grab the ₹10 food packet. Each food packet has six chapatis, vegetable and a pickle.


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