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Only weeks before the COVID-19 crisis intensified in India, the West Bengal Comprehensive Area Development Corporation (WBCADC) had introduced solar-powered and electric vans to sell fresh vegetables, staple grains, fish, meat and other kitchen essentials in different pockets of Kolkata.
Initially, these were selling organic produce in and around Salt Lake and New Town of East Kolkata.
However, with the sudden imposition of the lockdown, Soumyajit Das, the secretary of WBCADC, decided to use the mobile vans for a greater purpose—to deliver groceries and other essentials to the elderly across Kolkata, many of whom are staying alone.
Delivering essentials to the elderly
Speaking to The Better India, Das explained the details of this initiative.
“WBCADC can be referred to as the agricultural research and distribution wing of the state government. We engage in organic farming of paddy, pulses, vegetables and even poultry and livestock across 22 farms in Bengal. We grow several unique varieties of rice and greens; we are also reviving indigenous breeds of poultry like Kadaknath, Vanaraja and Cockerel chicken and Black Bengal Goat,” informs Das.
Initially, the department used to sell seeds among organic farming enthusiasts, but when they started having surplus production, they decided to market that among urban consumers as well.
With this objective, six vending vans were officially flagged off on February 26 this year, which initially used to ply around the popular bazaars, offering customers a wide range of organic foods to choose from.
With the lockdown in place, Das received orders from the government to help deliver groceries and essentials to the doorstep of senior citizens.
“We even received frantic phone calls from people stranded abroad in Sydney, Canberra, Toronto, desperately seeking our help to deliver goods to their elderly parents. Presently, ten of our solar vans are actively doing the same. In addition, we are also delivering groceries to infirm and helpless individuals who cannot venture out independently to buy food,” shares Das.
How to place an order
In addition to the mobile vans, WBCADC has also collaborated with 17 retail chains, who are facilitating the delivery programme on two-wheelers. The entire operation starts from 7 am every day and continues till late evening until the last customer is served.
Das informs that once the orders are placed through WhatsApp or email according to the predetermined rate chart, the delivery is followed through as soon as possible.
“We also personally deliver the essentials in our office vehicles in case of an emergency need if all the vans are preoccupied. Serving the elderly and the helpless people in such time of need remains our utmost priority.”
For ordering essentials for the elderly or differently-abled in Kolkata, drop a WhatsApp message on 9163123556 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)