State faces hurdles in starting budget canteens

State faces hurdles in starting budget canteens

The Siddaramaiah government is eager to start budget canteens on the lines of Amma canteens of Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu, in order to reap political benefits ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. But, paucity of time seems to be the biggest hurdle for the State government.

The Food and Civil Supplies department is said to have drawn up a plan to start the canteens, wherein rice and sambar will be sold to people at affordable price. The department has reportedly sought at least a month’s time from the government to prepare itself for a full-fledged launch of the new scheme.

But the Election Commission of India (ECI) is expected to announce the calendar of events for the elections in the first week of March. Once the model code of conduct comes into effect, the government will not be able to implement the new scheme.

The government is, however, said to be in two minds. It fears that any lapse on its part in implementing the scheme would prove costly as it might have a direct bearing on the coming elections. It had a bitter experience in implementing the Anna Bhagya (rice at Re 1 per kg) scheme. The government was forced to postpone its launch due to non-availability of rice stock. 

Pilot project

It has, therefore, been proposed to the government to start about 10 canteens in Bangalore on a pilot basis at the earliest with the help of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO implementing the government’s mid-day meal scheme for school children. The cost per plate of rice and sambar would be fixed at Rs 12.50. Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Dinesh Gundurao held a meeting on Friday with the officials to firm up the plan.

The government would supply rice and fuel to the NGO, which will cook the food and distribute it to people. To begin with, at total of 30,000 plates of rice and sambar would be served per day at 10 canteens, the officials said. 

When contacted, Gundurao said the canteen scheme will be launched after the elections. “We do not want to do it in a hurry. It needs a lot of preparation. We want to provide food to the poor at affordable cost and it will be done after making proper preparations,” he said.

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