On the lines of Karnataka’s Indira Canteen and Tamil Nadu’s Amma Canteen, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has launched ‘Maa Kitchens’ in poll-bound West Bengal, which will provide nutritious food at a highly subsidised price. After the BJP dismissed the scheme – under which a plate full of rice, cooked vegetables, dal and an egg will be offered at just Rs 5 – as an election stunt, the ruling Trinamool Congress pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently launched several infrastructure projects for the state, just months ahead of the assembly elections.
At the launch event at the state secretariat – Nabanna, Ms Banerjee said, “This is the Maa Kitchen. We are proud of our Maa (mother). Wherever there is Maa, things will be good. We salute all mothers.”
This is Ms Banerjee’s third big-ticket scheme for the poor after the flagship Duarey Sarkar (government services at doorstep) and Swasthya Sathi (health insurance). The scheme, which started today in Kolkata, will be expanded across the state.
NDTV talked to some of the beneficiaries, who hope that the scheme continues for the entire year.
“I leave for work in the morning. It’s our good luck if we get food at Rs 5,” a man who came to sample the food said.
“If I have to eat vegetables and rice, it costs Rs 25. It’s unbelievable we are getting a meal at Rs 5. If we get it the whole year, it will be very good,” said another beneficiary.
“What will the poor do? If we eat one meal at Rs 5 it will be a great service for us,” added another beneficiary.
The BJP attacked the government over the announcement. “The people of Bengal don’t have money to buy food to eat. That’s why she has to run Maa Canteen so that people get food at Rs 5. She has proved she has failed. People have become beggars and she has to feed people at Rs 5,” BJP’s Bengal chief, Dilip Ghosh said.
The Trinamool Congress hit back, saying the BJP remembers Bengal only during elections.
“Why is the PM visiting so many times before the elections? He has been here to inaugurate projects. They are raising irrelevant questions which have no meaning. This is no Chunawi Thali (election thali). Kanyashree, Rupashree, Swasthya Sathi are all working well,” West Bengal’s Urban Development Minister, Firhad Hakim, said.
The Chief Minister also inaugurated several other projects, including an I-T park, to draw investment to the state.
Elections are due in the state in April-May this year. The Election Commission is likely to announce the dates for the polls by the end of this month.
No project or scheme can be launched after the Election Commission’s Model Code Of Conduct kicks in.