When the Amma Canteens were launched with much fanfare, there were silent murmurs in the bureaucracy and among city administration experts - who is going to look after the operations and how long can the city bear the cost? Apparently, those cheap idlis have come home to roost. Times of India reports that the city corporation might soon hand the operation of Amma Canteens over to an NGO.
The reasons are as expected. Officials, especially in the health department, are unable to monitor the canteens along with their regular work. Also, the costs are spiralling up, and the city corporation knows that they will not be able to keep up with it.
Sanitary inspectors, who are supposed to take steps to contain mosquito and rodent menace, raid eateries selling unhealthy food and check quality of Metrowater, say they have not been able to carry out most responsibilities since Amma canteens came into being in 2013. While each of the 252 Amma canteens in Chennai has a separate kitchen, corporation officials say centralised kitchens similar to those run by Akshaya Patra in various cities could reduce the manpower and expenditure burden. â€œWe will be able to keep tabs on the purchase of grain, groceries, curd and LPG if there are centralised kitchens. But we will have to spend money on transportation of cooked food to canteens from the centralized kitchen,â€œ said a senior corporation official.
The report also says,
To run the canteens, the corporation every year spends an average of `90 crore, an expenditure that increases each year, forcing the civic body to cut down on various infrastructure projects.â€œWe are considering seeking financial assistance from private firms to fund Amma canteens under the Corporate Social Responsibility to reduce the subsidy burden,â€œ the official added.
A team from Chennai is all set to visit the Akshaya Patra foundation in Bengaluru to study their model. They are also considering creating a centralised kitchen system which can help them cut expenditure.