Operation Sulaimani is a free food programme introduced in the city of Kozhikode(CALICUT) in Kerala , India by the district administration and Kerala Hotel and Restaurants Association. It is meant to enable those who cannot afford a meal to have food with dignity and to avoid food wastage.
The program is named after Sulaimani, a popular drink in Malabar, made from black tea, cardamom and lemon juice.
The idea of Operation Sulaimani is inspired by the Malayalam movie Ustad Hotel where the protagonist, a hotel owner in Kozhikode, feeds the hungry from his earnings.
Operation Sulaimani ensures that no one in Kozhikode is denied food on account of an empty or even lost wallet. It guarantees a right to food without answering any questions or long delays.
The project was launched by Kozhikode’s District Collector, Prashant Nair, who envisaged this as a community owned and community driven initiative in its entirety. In his own words "Operation Sulaimani is modelled on a system existing in western countries such as Coffee-on-Wall and Food-on-the-Wall, where you pay for an extra meal or coffee"
Kozhikode Collector, Prasanth Nair
The Collector’s office initiated it and the Kerala State Hotel and Restaurants Association roped in over 125 city restaurants to become a part of this.
But, there are no big sponsors nor do any government funds flow in. The small and big contributions by the citizens are dropped into little boxes with ‘Operation Sulaimani’ inscribed on them.
The people of Kozhikode are silently funding an initiative that feeds anyone who is hungry for free, with utmost dignity.
“Nalla Manushyar Aanu” – “They are good people.” This is a default comment that you will hear about the people of Kozhikode, Kerala. From its fabled auto drivers who return every penny of change, to its palliative clinic that provides free care for the terminally ill, to simple heart-warming selfless conversations, the tales of Kozhikode’s good hearted people are greatly cherished.
Now here is a reason why you will also chime in with some words of praise – Kozhikode makes sure no one in the city goes hungry! Be it the poorest, the not so poor, be it you or me – the hungry will be served food for free, with utmost dignity.
People in need can collect a free meal coupon from any of the distribution centres and walk into any restaurant in the city – a meal will be served, no questions asked, no explanations sought.
“We cannot ask a hungry person to get his hunger attested by a certified gazetted officer! That is why we insisted on the philosophy that ‘no questions will be asked’. If you ask for a food coupon, you will get it, it is as dignified as that,” says District Collector of Kozhikode, Prashant Nair, the chief architect of this project
There are now more than 25 Coupon Distribution centres in 14 zones of Kozhikode district. They can be exchanged for a meal in more than 100 restaurants. As of May 2016, around 10,000 meals have been served through Operation Sulaimani.
One of the striking aspects of Operation Sulaimani is the fact that it gets fulfilled within the capabilities of existing systems. No big kitchens to feed the hungry were built and no massive funds were sought in the name of hunger eradication. By leading people to any restaurant in any part of the city, it blended the cause into the everyday function of Kozhikode’s restaurants.
The District Collector adds, “There is no food wastage nor do we have to worry about the safety of the food. If we had chosen to build a large kitchen to supply free food, we would have all these problems. But we just decided to use the existing system and make the best use of it.”
One of the restaurants in the vicinity of the city mental hospital feeds several people who come in with coupons. The restaurant owner says his life has never before felt so blessed.Many restaurant owners like him do not want to take the reimbursements but Team Sulaimani insists that they are paid.
Some people doubt if such a facility will be misused, but the team is not worried about that. Rather, it is finding it challenging to reach more people who are in need. The members found that hunger is not just about the people on the streets, the homeless, it is also discreetly present within our communities. Reaching these people and making them aware that food is the last thing they need to worry about is what the team is obsessed with.
Team Sulaimani believes that the dignity of the people should not be infringed on, and we salute that spirit.
Governments of other States have to take initiatives to implement this noble hearted Operation Sulaimani in the cities of their states.