Harsh Mander in a recent magazine piece in The Hindu refers to sale of food token by wayside eateries at Jama Masjid and Nizamuddin areas in Delhi. Idea is customers can buy these plastic tokens for hand-outs among the needy in the neighbourhood. Recipients can exchange the plastic token for a take-away parcel anytime over a period of one month. The food token system adopted by eating houses is relevant in the context of , what Mr Mander terms, erosion of religious charity traditions .
A survey of places of worship in Delhi found little evidence of Christian food charities in the city ; mosques no longer opened their doors to the homeless and hungry; and Hindu temples, mostly served sweet and oily food sporadically, on fixed sacred days, and rarely with dignity. Eating houses selling plastic tokens in Delhi are located in the vicinity of places of worship that attract alms seekers. It is a business model adopted by eating houses , for the benefit charity-minded pilgrims.
The food token system can be adopted for a drive against hunger, elsewhere in the country. Traders and restaurant owners associations in various localities should take a lead. An operating system for the issue of tokens can be evolved by management experts. MBA students can take it up as class project. OMR Greens would welcome an initiative in this regard by management students at Hindustan University. We can approach traders association and eating houses at Padur-Kelambakkam area with a project proposal.
The ‘luncheon voucher’ and ‘food coupons’ issued by IT companies to employees can be a working model for restaurant and traders associations to adopt. Food token can be priced on cost-sharing basis, and all three stake holders – traders body, eating houses in a locality, and their customers who buy the food tokens – would be partners in a CSR project (community social responsibility) to work for freedom from hunger..