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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Women SHGs to run canteen at Bihar government facilities, give free meals

The initiative will not only create employment opportunities for women, the core votebank of ruling JD(U), but also check pilferage of public money meant for dietary supplement of patients undergoing treatment at government health facilities.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2018 08:55 IST
Ruchir Kumar
Ruchir Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
A canteen operated by women self-help group, associated with the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society, was inaugurated on the campus of the Vaishali district hospital in Hajipur on Tuesday. HT photo
A canteen operated by women self-help group, associated with the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society, was inaugurated on the campus of the Vaishali district hospital in Hajipur on Tuesday. HT photo(HT Photo)
         

What is seen as Bihar’s preparations for upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Nitish Kumar government has decided to rope in women self-help groups (SHGs) to set up canteen at government health facilities in the state.

Christened ‘Didi Ki Rasoi’ (sister’s kitchen), these canteens will initially be set up at six government health facilities on a pilot project basis through women SHGs associated with Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), a poverty alleviation initiative of the state government.

The initiative will not only create employment opportunities for women, the core votebank of ruling JD(U), but also check pilferage of public money meant for dietary supplement of patients undergoing treatment at government health facilities.

In its endeavour to provide free meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — to in-patients, the Bihar government spends up to Rs 100 per patient per day on food, as per the rate last revised in September 2015. This money will now be routed to women SHGs through BRLPS in the six health facilities shortlisted on an experimental basis.These include the district hospitals of Vaishali, Buxar, Sheohar, Gaya and Sheikhpura, and the subdivisional hospital of Sherghati in Gaya district.

The State Health Society, Bihar (SHSB), inked a pact with the BRLPS in this regard recently.

As of now, private vendors, appointed through a tender process, get the government money to provide free food to patients across over 650 government-run health facilities, including nine medical college hospitals, 37 district hospitals, 67 referral hospitals, 48 subdivisional hospitals and 496 primary health centres in Bihar.

“The canteen facility became functional at the Vaishali district hospital today. For the remaining five locations, we are in the process of earmarking space for the canteen to be run by women SHGs. If the model is successful, we will tie up with BRLPS and submit a proposal to the government to replicate it in other hospitals as well,” said SHSB executive director Lokesh Kumar Singh.

While the government will reimburse women SHGs the cost of meals provided to in-patients, they will be at liberty to charge commercial rate from other clients, including attendants of patients.

The SHSB has been mandated to provide space for the canteen at designated government health facilities. The BRLPS will oversee operations and also ensure that good quality food is served at canteens.

Bihar has 8.25 lakh SHGs, covering 94.85 lakh households. “Our target is to scale up the SHGs to 10 lakh in the state,” said Balamurugan D, chief executive officer and state mission director, BRLPS.

Interestingly, political pundits see the initiative as yet another attempt by the Nitish Kumar government to woo women, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.

Heeding to women’s request, Kumar had announced Bihar a dry state on April 5, 2016, after returning to power in the state in 2015.

As per census 2011 data, of the 77 million women in Bihar older than 18 years, only 38.5% have registered as voters. Despite higher women voter turnout in Bihar vis-à-vis men, only 22% of all women older than 18 years voted in the 2014 general elections in Bihar.

Bihar has a gender ratio of 914 women (per 1000 men) as per census and 874 as per electoral roll.

First Published: Dec 12, 2018 08:55 IST