Centre studies subsidised food canteen plan

The Centre is examining the feasibility of a proposal for a scheme that will support subsidised food canteens as many states already have such schemes in place.

A final call on the proposal will be taken at the highest level after examining pros and cons of such a scheme with respect to PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY) and overall food subsidy bill.

“The idea is to make food available for the poor for a subsidised rate of ₹10 or ₹15 to the lowest of the pyramid,” finance ministry officials said.

The beneficiary can use a ration card or Aadhaar card to obtain the meals as it is done in many states.

In November the Supreme Court gave direction to the centre to undertake an initiative to run community kitchens to feed the needy and poor.

“Every welfare state’s first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger,” Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had said, adding that the job of a welfare state was to ensure that people did not starve to death.

Suggestions to this effect have also come to the government from within the BJP, including its state units.

Economists feel that despite limited headroom, the government will not cut down on welfare schemes, considering the assembly elections, rising covid cases and fresh restrictions imposed in many states.

“The centre has a larger mandate than just economic considerations. There are weaker segments which require handholding, irrespective of budgetary constraints. They have done it and will continue to extend help to the weaker segment,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, Bank of Baroda, said.

Tamil Nadu is already running the Amma Canteen scheme. On the same model, Karnataka government distributes free food through Indira Canteen. Similarly, chief minister Mamata Banerjee launched ‘Maa’ canteens providing cooked food for poor at a nominal cost of ₹5 as Covid relief.

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