Andhra Pradesh Anna canteens: A revelation that defeats its core purpose?Sep 12, 2018
No restrictions in place, Anna canteens are open to all without exceptions of socio-economic filters on beneficiaries. People from all walks of Andhra Pradesh queue up for the government subsidized outlets.
Anna canteens, recently introduced government initiative, reflecting Amma canteens in its neighbouring state – Tamil Nadu, has made headlines in news media for serving nutritious food thrice a day, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ideally, the initiative was aimed to people from the lesser privileged part of the society, but with no guidelines in place, it has become an immediate hit among the masses in the city. But question still remains whether the initiative is serving its true purpose?
The response to this, however, have been found to be varied with a mixed bag of opinions. A closer inspection at the ground realities portray that the Anna canteens in the city has several from the under-privileged part complaining that their quota of food is being partaken by the people who can afford a meal by paying the existing regular price elsewhere.
Presently, 24 Anna canteens are serving subsidized food at a price of 5 rupees per meal in Visakhapatnam city. As per the information obtained – about 1,200 people have visited each of the canteen daily.
N Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, recently has announced that the state government will add another 200 Anna canteens across 17 cities in the state, to the already existing 60 canteens.
Maddilapalem Anna canteen’s supervisor Tarun Janapareddy says, “The canteen is open to all the people and we cannot restrict a person if he or she belongs to an affluent family or comes in a car. The idea is to serve the poor, but there is no mechanism or policy to impose the restriction. People from all walks of life in Andhra Pradesh are standing in the queue to eat a meal at five rupees.”
According to J Rama Govinda, a field officer, and Power Security Services and Housekeeping – a company engaged in recruiting and training of the canteen staff, each canteen operates for three hours during breakfast, lunch and dinner time.
The served food is weighed to a fixed amount and often times, the food gets over in about just two hours.
He added: “We haven’t received any guidelines regarding the economic profile of the beneficiaries which in turn means rich people can also use the facility and benefit from the government’s initiative.”
Agreeing with Rama Govinda, Nani Kadagala, a supervisor of Anna canteen in Seetamma Peta, said: “People from all colours of life come here to eat. There is an equal representation from the poor, and the not so poor.” The hygienic setting, quality of food and the subsidized food price have attracted large part of the society in huge numbers, including those from above the poverty line category.
“The canteens are built with many high benchmarks. Who would not want to eat a healthy meal for 5 rupees,” questioned R Gurulinga, a customer at the Anna canteen in the city.
Akshaya Patra Foundation’s Jejeswar Rao, belonging to the sales team which runs the canteens, said, “If there’s a shortage of food, we usually increase the quantity the next day. But, the challenge is to meet the full demand for subsidized meals is no easy task. Especially, when every citizen feels entitled that the access to Anna canteen food is their right.”
CH Appalanarsy, a city auto driver, who nowadays prefers to grab a meal at Anna canteen, has his reservations despite welcoming the government’s initiative. “If people earning 40,000 rupees a month eat here, how will the ones who need the subsidized food the most get their lot?” he asked.
D Srinivasan, Project Director of Urban Community Development, said: “We are aware of the problem of those who can afford food at regular price are instead accessing the food at the canteen. We hope that the citizens will act responsibly so that people who need the service of Anna canteens can be benefited.”