Uncertainty looms over the continuance of Andhra Pradesh's Anna Canteens, which provide food at subsidised rate of Rs 5. The YSRCP government has assured the Assembly that it does not intend to wind up the scheme introduced by the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, but plans to streamline the canteens instead.
However, there is no clarity on whether the canteens will remain open beyond Wednesday, as the government has asked Akshaya Patra, which cooks and supplies food for the canteens, to provide the last meal on July 31.
It has also not announced alternate arrangements so far, thereby raising apprehensions that the canteens may be shut from August 1.
Though YSRCP leaders say the government may re-launch the scheme after renaming it and also ensuring that it is better targeted, there is ambiguity as to how long the new government will take to re-open the canteens under a refurbished scheme as it has alleged corruption in the implementation of the scheme by the previous government.
Replying to a question by a TDP member in the Assembly on Tuesday, Municipal Administration Minister Botsa Satyanarayana said that they had no intention to discontinue the scheme. The TDP had even pointed out that no allocation had even been made in the Budget for the scheme by the YSRCP government.
However, Satyanarayana alleged that the TDP resorted to irregularities as Anna Canteens were built wherever it found land on the eve of the elections. He said a thorough probe would be conducted into the irregularities.
YSRCP leaders alleged that the TDP used the canteens for publicity by painting them yellow, which is the TDP colour.
It was in July-August last year that Anna Canteens were opened in different parts of the state. Modelled on the lines of Tamil Nadu's Amma Canteens, there are about 204 Anna Canteens in 73 municipalities, spread across the state.
The canteens were named after TDP founder and former Chief Minister N T Rama Rao, who is affectionately called Anna (elder brother).
Poor and daily wage earners in cities and towns are benefitting from the canteens, which serve hygenic food for Rs 5.
The scheme proved to be a boon for the poor as three square meals a day cost them just Rs 15. The same would have otherwise cost them around Rs 150. The government bears the burden of the remaining Rs 58 for all the three meals per person.
Every canteen is catering to 1,000-1,200 people for each session and thus all canteens are providing over 6 lakh meals every day.
For breakfast, the canteens serve idli and upama. They get rice, curry, dal, sambar, curd and pickle for lunch and dinner.
As YSRCP government has either done away with or renamed many schemes implemented during the TDP rule, Anna Canteens are also likely to be re-launched under a new name.
All the schemes announced by the new government during the last two months have been named after Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's father and former chief minister Y. S.Rajasekhar Reddy.
YSRCP leaders say the canteens may be renamed as 'Rajanna canteens'. Late Rajasekhara Reddy was affectionately called Rajanna.
In case the canteens are closed, the livelihood of nearly 1,500 workers will get affected. Every canteen has seven to 10 workers, majority of whom are women.