By Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Everyone in Mahoba knows Haji P Mohammad alias Haji Muttan and can guide a visitor to his home.
After all, he is the man who had opened the first Roti Bank, a unique initiative to ensure that no one stays hungry in the town. It has been a huge success story and similar Roti Banks were late opened in different parts of the country & even outside India.
But it was not an easy journey when Haji Muttan started the Roti Bank. The beginning was in the year 2014. It was decided that rotis would be collected–volunteers would go from house to house and collect them, in order to provide food–rotis and sabzi for the needy, so that no one went to bed with an empty stomach in the town.
In the backward and impoverished Bundelkhand, which often suffers from drought, lack of employment opportunities and extreme poverty, everyone was aware that there was a need for a public participatory movement to tackle the level of hunger and malnutrition.
However, he managed to form a team of such people–like Jaspal Singh, Jagannath Prajapati and Pankaj Anuragi, who were ready to dedicate themselves for the cause. ‘Many households were eager to provide at least two rotis and sabzi. The request was just to ensure the food was fresh”.
There were so many needy people who had no one to look after them, some had to be provided food at their home. But people realised that it was a cause that was worth an effort. Youngsters came and joined him. “I always wanted to do some social service, something for the sake of humanity”, says Haji Muttan.
Over the years, the Roti Bank became a symbol of pride for the town. After all, hundreds were getting benefited everyday. Later, others got inspired and more Roti Banks were opened in the region and in other cities of Uttar Pradesh from Varanasi to Rampur and Gorakhpur, and then across India.
Om Narayan, who has been associated with the work from the beginning, says that the aim was service. “People from all religious communities came together, joined the movement”, he says. “After Roti Bank’s success, similar projects started in Banda, Chhatarpur and other cities in Bundelkhand”, he added.
“Apart from Haji sahab, Jagannath Prajapati and Father L Masih are also part of the team. There are many volunteers who do it with dedication”, he further said. After Tsunami, when Indonesia witnessed destruction, and there were large number of destitutes and orphans, Roti Banks was started at different places there also.
Haji Muttan also visited Indonesia. A non-governmental initiative that is being run with public support by dedicated inviduals, it has set an example how to fight hunger, especially, when a huge population still suffers from extreme poverty and the country needs to wage a war against hunger and malnutrition.