India's Unsung heroes: Tara Patkar's Roti Bank feeds over 1,000 needy people every day

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Meet this journalist-turned-social worker in Mahoba, about 230 km from Lucknow, in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, who has been working to bring food assistance, medical facilities and social cohesiveness to the people of his hometown.

Roti bank founder Tara Patkar. Photo credit: Twitter

Tara Patkar quit his journalism career in 2014 and started an unique effort to feed the needy everyday. His brainchild 'Roti Bank', provides free food to the hungry and the homeless living in Mahoba district. Everyday, his team feeds over 1,000 needy people.

This initiative was started under the banner of Bundeli Samaj, a NGO and now has many supporters including some caterers. The 'roti bank' gives home-cooked rotis and vegetables to the needy every day and is managed by a group of 5 elders and 40 youngsters.

Today, the Roti Bank has extended its activities to Chhikhara and Mullah Khoda, two villages in the same district.

How it started

One day in early 2015, Patkar and his friends fed five hungry people to dissuade them from begging for money. Within a fortnight, the number of beneficiaries rose to 60.
Bundelkhand region has been plagued with drought for several years. Last year the region witnessed 50 per cent rain deficiency.

In June, after the number of people needing food assistance increased multi-fold, Patkar decided to name their effort 'Roti Bank', and continued to feed the poor, the beggars and the destitute in Mahoba. Patkar and two dozen or so volunteers go door to door, collecting donations of rotis and cooked vegetable from around 700 households, in large jute bags. Then, they feed nearly 1000 people every day.

Journalism to social cause

After doing post graduation, Patkar worked initially on the desk for publications such as Dainik Jagran, Jansatta Express and Tehelka (as a contributor). Later he covered Bundelkhand and wildlife for newspapers, winning an award for wildlife reporting from the UP Governor in 2003. During his time as a journalist, he began to lean towards social activism slowly. Starting with the founding of the Bundeli Samaj, he helmed a series of social initiatives. Finally, after two decades in journalism, he listened to his heart and came back to his home Mahoba where he started the Roti Bank.

Ask him about his future plans, he just says, nobody in Bundelkhand, a region comprising 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh and 6 districts of Madhya Pradesh, should sleep on an empty stomach.

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