Pricier, shorter Parliament canteen menu soon; non-veg food to remain
From boiled vegetables to kesari bath, the canteen now serves a total of 48 food items for lunch and evening snacks. But items such as poha, mutton cutlet or bonda are not available regularly.Updated: Jan 21, 2020 05:59 IST
A lunch in Parliament house will no longer be a low-cost affair with the Lok Sabha secretariat deciding to revise upwards the prices for food, eliminating a subsidy that’s come in for a lot of criticism. The plan will also involve pruning the menu from the current list of 48, by removing unpopular items, and a focus on quality. However, there is no move to entirely remove non-vegetarian items from the menu, a senior functionary of the Lok Sabha said on condition of anonymity. “Non-vegetarian food will remain on the menu.”
“We hope to finalise the new rates during the recess between the two parts of the budget session and roll out the revised food rates from March,” Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said.
As the Lok Sabha has not yet set up a panel of food management, Birla is personally looking into the issue.
Earlier, the Lok Sabha secretariat decided to roll out the revised rates from the budget session which starts from January 31. But a packed schedule of engagement didn’t leave much time for Birla to look into the issue, Lok Sabha officials pointed out.
The subsidy in Parliament canteen, which is run by Northern Railways, came up during discussion at a meeting of party leaders chaired by Birla in December last year. At least two leaders said that Birla wanted to know how much subsidy is given to Parliament canteen and how many MPs eat there regularly.
Birla was told that the subsidy for the previous year ran into Rs 17 crore but that very few MPs have lunch in the canteen during the session.
During an informal interaction with HT last week, the Speaker also indicated that some food items might be dropped in the revised list as there is limited demand for such items.
From boiled vegetables to kesari bath, the canteen now serves a total of 48 food items for lunch and evening snacks. But items such as poha, mutton cutlet or bonda are not available regularly. According to canteen officials, the vegetarian thali (Rs 40) and chapattis (Rs 2 each) are the most sought-after food in the Parliament complex.
According to data available with Lok Sabha officials, out of the Rs 17 crore subsidy, only Rs 24 lakh was spent on account of the MPs. The rest was accounted for by visitors, security personnel, government officials, and journalists covering Parliament. During a session, an average of 4,500 people eat daily at Parliament.
In 2015, the then Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan approved a proposal to abolish subsidy on parliament food and run the canteens on a no-profit-no-loss basis. The decision came after years of public criticism that the canteen used to serve a plate of chicken curry for Rs 29 or dal for just Rs 2.
Those prices have since been increased. Now, a fruit salad is sold for Rs 10 while chicken curry costs Rs 50. A masala dosa is priced at Rs 20.
The functionary also added that so far, no vendor has been finalised to replace Northern Railways in the canteen.
A query under the Right To Information Act revealed that between 2010 and 2015, the canteen received a subsidy of Rs 60.7 crore.