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Feature: Subsidised food scheme in Delhi gets good response

Xinhua,December 30, 2017 Adjust font size:

NEW DELHI, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Over the past few days hordes of people could be seen thronging small kiosks in Delhi during lunch hours offering subsidised food. The crowds are swelling day by day, with each of these kiosks catering food to around 700 people every day.

Earlier this week two local governments in Delhi, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), launched the new subsidised food scheme "Atal Jan Aahar Yojna" in the name of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, offering one plateful food at 10 Indian rupees (16 U.S. cents). Both the local governments are run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main ruling party in India.

The Indian capital is divided into three local governments. The third one, East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) also ruled by the BJP, is yet to begin the food scheme so far due to some financial crunch.

"We bear 4 rupees per food-plate bought by people from these kiosks. It was a commitment we had to people of Delhi in our manifesto in the run up to the last election, and we fulfilled that," SDMC Mayor Kamaljeet Sehrawat said.

The SDMC has engaged different Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for different kiosks. These NGOs cook and serve the food items and the SDMC give them logistical support.

"Initially we have set up five kiosks in SDMC for trial basis, and will soon expand to other places. Food for around 600 people is served at each of these kiosks. We are getting tremendous response from the public as the numbers are swelling day by day," said Sehrawat.

The food kiosks open from 11.00 a.m. local time to 14:00 p.m. One such kiosk is set up at Green Park area in south Delhi, a popular commercial hub with shops, offices and business establishments around.

D.S. Rawat, a manager at the kiosk said "We are three staff members here. I collect money while the rest two serve food to customers. Initially we are offering 'chhole-chawal' (rice and white grams curry) but soon will add more items to the food menu, including 'dal-chawal' (rice and lentils), 'poori-sabzi' (fried breads and potatoes curry) and 'halwa' (a sweet dish). We are open from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. but continue till the food lasts."

He further said that people from all walks of life come and eat here.

"The food quality is good and is offered at cheap prices too. Our clients include autos-drivers, office goers, passers-by, and the local businessmen. One can't get such low-priced food anywhere in Delhi."

The kiosks are giving a tough competition to those running food-stalls nearby. One such food-stall offering south Indian food items, the lowest priced item being 50 rupees, is facing a cut in the number of customers every day.

"Yes, these new kiosks offering food at 10 rupees has affected our business to a great extent. Now most people prefer eating there as the food there is very low priced and has the government backing. It's a new idea, so perhaps people are preferring it. I hope people will soon lose interest and return to our food-stall since we offer different varieties of food items," said Ram Sunder Das, who runs the south Indian food stall next to the SDMC's kiosk.

This is not the first time such a subsidised food scheme is launched in India. The most popular till day is "Amma Canteens" launched by former chief minister of southern state Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalitha, who died last December.

Similar subsidised food schemes were recently launched in northern state Uttar Pradesh and western state Rajasthan, both ruled by the BJP. The main aim of such schemes is to combat the problem of hunger in the country.

Such food schemes were mentioned in manifestos of almost political parties ahead of elections in India. According to rough estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around 190.7 million people, or 14.5 percent of the population, are undernourished in India.

Also, 38.4 percent of the children aged under five in the country are stunted. Malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria. Enditem