A noble venture gone waste

A noble venture gone waste

An initiative to provide low-cost meal to the economically weaker sections of society---the Jan Aahar Yojna, started by the Sheila Dikshit-led Delhi Government in 2010, is in a deplorable state these days. Though food stalls, which are a part of this scheme, have been installed in 40 different locations of the City, the problem of poor quality food and lack of cleanliness and hygiene continues to be a major problem. 

Since the last few months, the Jan Aahar stalls which were supposed to provide modestly-priced nutritious and hygienic meals to the needy at Rs 18 per meal have failed to live up to their avowed claims – of serving wholesome nutritious meals.  According to the scheme the food served should contain 1000 calories. Either six pooris or four chappatis should be given or 400 grams rice. But pooris cannot be served more than twice in a week. Likewise one sabzi plus dal or rajma/chhole should be served along with it. 

But as Metrolife found out nothing as per the norms is being followed. “Instead of a proper meal, what is being served to us is poori and aloo ki sabzi,” says Vijendra, who runs a tea stall and has been eating at the Jantar Mantar Jan Aahar stall for more than a year. 

“The stall never serves dal and roti. If we want to have raita then I have to shell out an extra five rupees. So the total meal costs about Rs 23,” he says. 

Despite the increase in the price, there’s no respite to the people who are dependant on the Jan Ahaar outlet for a decent, square meal but are forced to eat extremely sub-standard food. Jeet Pal, a rickshaw-puller says, “It is no more a low-cost nutritious meal. Sometimes the food is really bad, the sabzi has no gravy and is watery. In place of spices, they add lots of red chilli powder and turmeric which really does not add to the taste.”

The Jan Aahar Stalls located outside important public areas like the Safdarjang Hospital, the New Delhi Railway Station, Jantar Mantar etc. draw thousands everyday who are looking for pocket-friendly meals these stalls. Therefore, it also becomes important that the area around is clean. But this isn’t the case. Hygiene has gone for a toss at the Jantar Mantar and many others stalls, where there is no proper facility for water or drainage, which leaves the area around dirty and unkempt. Likewise, at New Delhi Railway Station there is litter and sewer water flows freely all around.

However, Som Datt Sharma who has been operating the Jan Aahar stall at Jantar Mantar for the last six months, is happy with the food he is providing to the people. He claims proudly that he serves different food items like kadi and chawal, but surprisingly, his customers have already proved him wrong.

Kumar Pal of Jan Chetna Jagriti Avom Shakshanik Vikas Manch, providing food to Jan Aahar stalls in SP Mukherjee Marg, Old Delhi Railway Station and Khari Baoli, blames Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for unhygienic conditions near the stalls.

“Cleanliness of the area is the responsibility of the MCD,” he says.  

Instead of overlooking the problems, the authorities should take inspiration from Amma’s Canteen serving hot and wholesome breakfast and lunch at rock-bottom rates in Tamil Nadu. The canteen concept, started by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, sells tasty rice-sambar at Rs 5, curd-rice at Rs 3 and idli for a mere Re 1 a piece. A thought there for the Delhi Government!

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