Subsidy in Parliamentary canteens

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Subsidy on food in Parliamentary canteens was abolished in the year 2015 after heavy public-criticism subsequent to disclosure of an RTI response. But recent RTI response reveals that subsidy amounting to about Rs 15 crores each year is still continuing. Several Union ministers and Parliamentarians earlier favoured continuing food-subsidy at Parliament-canteens because according to them just a handful of Parliamentarians enjoy such subsidised-food, which is instead used by thousands of others including media-persons and Parliament-staff. Earlier most common argument was that it was necessary because in case of extended Parliamentary day beyond dinner-time, food-subsidy at Parliament-canteens was necessary.

Firstly all such arguments hold well only if government is able to provide such a luxurious food at similar subsidised price to other staffers, visitors and journalists visiting government-offices and media-centres. Even if only Parliament-canteens are to provide similar subsidised food, then only plain simple thali rather than variety of luxurious food may be there at Parliament-canteens that too totally free-of-cost rather than charging a nominal cost.

Since Parliament House has a very restricted entry, simple free-of-cost thali will prove less costly than the present system because of big saving on subsidised luxury food. Providing luxury at heavy subsidy can in no case can be held justified. There are notable examples like Golden Temple (Amritsar) where lakhs of commoners are daily provided simple but hygienic food totally free-of-cost with full dignity and honour.

Madhu Agrawal

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)