HYDERABAD:Starving and broke? Look out for a white canteen that reads ‘Annapurna’ and that’s exactly the place you got to rush to, for filling hot meal, just for Rs.5. The Annapurna canteens, launched by the Telangana government in Hyderabad, provides ‘madhyana bhojanam’ or afternoon meals at 150 centres across the city from 12pm-1pm. What started off as a pilot project on 2nd March ,2014 at the Nampally railway station, has been extended to 150 centres in 3 years, serving around 30,000 people per day.
This project is coordinated by GHMC in collaboration with Akshaya Patra foundation, which also provides mid-day meals for government schools, run by the Hare Krishna movement. During a public meet, municipal administration minister, K.T. Rama Rao said “The actual cost of the meal per head is Rs.24.25, of which Rs.5 is paid by the beneficiary and GHMC bears the remaining Rs.19.25. About Rs.15 crore is being spent by GHMC annually on the scheme”. These canteens are present at most public places, like bus stands, railway stations, hospitals and parks, covering 24 assembly constituencies in Hyderabad, with a minimum of 3 canteens at different centres in each constituency.
Hot winds or humid summer afternoons, don’t seem to affect the crowd that ques up at the Annapurna canteen near GHMC office, a little before 12 pm. The menu deeply satisfies basic south Indian cravings with rice, dal or sambar, curry and pickle. One sweet dish comes bonus every Thursday. Everyone from daily wage workers to government employees admire the quality and the taste of the food that is served in the canteens. “A plate meal is usually enough to fill the stomach. I come here once or twice every week, the food is hygienic” says Ramu, who works as driver for an officer at GHMC. This canteen is open from 11am- 1pm and serves 300 plates per day. However, the closing timings and number of plates severed depends how crowded the area is. While there are canteens at places like city civil court and Asra hospital that only serve 60 plates, 720 plates of food are served at the canteen in Madhapur. Nevertheless, in places like Nampally, Madhapur and Mehdipatnam, the overwhelming crowd can get aggressive at times.
The supervisor of Mehdipatnam centre canteen complains of the trouble that mob causes and urges for police protection. Each canteen has got a minimum of 4 employees, appointed by GHMC. While some citizens complain of the food not being hot enough by the time they get it on their plate, some want the food to be free of cost. The food is delivered to the canteens at around 10.30 in the morning, all the way from Akshaya Patra’s kitchen in Kokapet. “The government hires autos from private vendors on contract basis, each auto delivers to 5 canteens”, says vinod, who works at Khairtabad’s Annapurna canteen, near NTR Gardens. The canteens are of great help to under privileged students who prepare for competitive exams near city central library. The canteens also provide water packets as a part of the meal. The diverse crowd at the canteens include working class, lower middle class and middle class. Hunger is the same for everyone anyway.
In January this year, the GHMC had sanctioned 5 centres for Secundrabad cantonment. Last year, 16 municipal commissioners from Andhra Pradesh had come to Hyderabad to observe the functioning of the canteens and the kitchen and to implement the same in AP as well. The scheme, clearly, is a huge hit.
Next time you are hungry, a google search for ‘5 rupee meals near me’ might help. Or http://csr.ghmc.gov.in/Annapurnalist.aspx has a list of all the centres of Annapurna canteens for your basic ‘madhyana bhojanam’.