Anna Canteens stop running in Andhra as contract not renewed
Anna Canteens, which were launched in 2016 under the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) rule to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the poor at a subsidised rate of Rs 5 in Andhra Pradesh, ended its operations on Thursday after the contract of a non-governmental organisational (NGO) running them was not renewed.
The closure comes two months after Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP lost power to arch rival, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in the state.
Akshaya Patra Foundation, the NGO, cooked and supplied food to 200-odd Anna Canteens across the state.
“The contract came to an end on Wednesday and there was no communication from the new government to continue further. So, we have stopped the food supply and surrendered all the material to municipal corporations,” a representative of Akshaya Patra in Vijayawada said on condition of anonymity.
The canteens were named after the former chief minister and TDP founder, NT Rama Rao, who was fondly called Anna (elder brother). The first such canteen was started on a pilot basis in Amaravati in June 2016.
The TDP government provided buildings and clean water for the 204 canteens.
TDP general secretary, Nara Lokesh, said the canteens were closed only for political reasons. “Mr Chief Minister, hunger doesn’t know politics. Should the poor go hungry for your political vendetta against us?” he asked on Twitter.
YSRCP lawmaker, Ramakrishna Reddy, said the canteens for the poor would be reopened shortly. “There was huge corruption in the construction of buildings and infrastructure for Anna Canteens. The government will ensure that the canteens would be reopened with better quality food and other facilities.”
Andhra Pradesh minister, Botsa Satyanarayana, on Tuesday insisted there was no proposal to close down the canteens. “The previous TDP government had launched the canteens hurriedly without any planning to appease voters by painting them yellow, their party colour. We shall streamline them and make them more effective,” he said.