New York: Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna is set to organize the "world's largest Eid feast" in Mumbai to feed nearly 1.75 lakh people in the city worst-affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in India. The 48-year-old world-renowned chef, author, and film-maker, who has distributed millions of dry ration meals to the needy across 79 cities in India amidst the COVID-19 crisis, is working round the clock to organize the feast beginning on Friday. "The food is being collected at the Haji Ali Dargah from where it will be loaded in trucks and distributed around Mohammed Ali Road, Dharavi and Mahim Dargah in Mumbai with the help of over 200 volunteers and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) while adhering to all guidelines of social distancing," Khanna told PTI. "With your blessings, we are putting together the world's largest Eid feast - 100,000+ Kgs of dry rations, fresh & dry fruits, spices, kitchen utensils, chais, sweets, juices, etc," Khanna tweeted on May 17. He said that within hours of the tweet, he had received tremendous support from individuals and companies offering to provide raw materials and other essential items for the meals. "As India observes Eid at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has spread fear and chaos in the world this feast showcases the soul of our country. It has been made possible by absolutely everybody coming together. It shows that in the time of such a crisis, we are holding hands and people are there for each other," he said. "India will win against the virus. India has said it will win and this effort is our stamp. This will be the common man serving the common man," he said. His initiative has been supported by some of the major food brands, foundations, and companies. In less than a month, Khanna has been able to procure and distribute over six million dry ration meals, including rice, lentils, and wheat flour, to orphanages and old-age homes and other needy individuals across nearly 80 cities in India. Khanna coordinates daily through phone all the logistical requirements, including securing permits to transfer the ration between states, pick-up, and deliveries from wholesale vendors and stockpiles and distribution to concerned centers. Beginning Thursday, Khanna's initiative of 'Fuel Stations to Food Stations' will also become operational across highways in India to distribute food to hundreds of thousands of laborers and migrant workers who are undertaking long and arduous journeys to return to their towns and villages. "We are trying to scale up the capacity to serve one million people per day under this initiative," he said. The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 3,435 and the number of cases to 1,12,359 in the country on Thursday. Maharashtra tops the tally with 1,390 fatalities. It is followed by Gujarat at 749 deaths and Madhya Pradesh at 267. The novel coronavirus which first originated in Wuhan in December last year has claimed 328,120 lives and infected nearly 5 million people globally. The US is the worst affected country with 93,439 deaths and over 1.5 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
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