CHENNAI: A mutton curry for Rs 20, chicken curry for Rs 29, boiled rice Rs 4, so is boiled egg, masala dosa for Rs 6, vada for Rs 2, puri with veg for Rs 2, non-veg meal for Rs 33, and a three course lunch for Rs 61, veg/egg/chicken sandwiches at just Rs 3/4/6, burger for Rs 17, pizza for Rs 20, low fat cream with fruits for Rs 19, custard with fruits (low fat milk) for Rs 23, roomali rotti, chapatti or pappad at just Re 1. And from the Winter Session 2014, Hyderabadi biriyanis for Rs 50 and 20 among other things to the menu.
This 95-item menu is not from a Socialist-run Restaurant at the end of the Universe, but from the four canteens at the Parliament in Delhi, where many legislators are increasingly pushing for subsidy cuts in food, fuel and fertilisers among other things.
With this heavily subsidised food bills, some times charged only a meagre 10 per cent of the raw material cost, these canteens have run up a subsidy of a whopping Rs 14 crore in just a year between 2013-14, show RTI documents.
The raw material cost alone for 'vegetable stew' – this is not factoring in the operating cost like salary, utility bills etc – works out to Rs 41.25. At the Parliament canteens, they are sold at Rs 4. So is 'boiled vegetables', which has a raw material cost of Rs 31.73. 'Dal assorted' is charged just Rs 2, while the prices of pulses have sky-rocketed across the country. Similarly, boiled egg and egg sandwiches cost only Rs 4, at a time when retail price of egg in Chennai is crossing Rs 5.
In fact, in the entire list of items on offer, only three items make any economic sense in this age of market Socialism - chapatti (Re 1 charged as against a raw material cost of 0.77 paise), samosas (procured at market price) and juices in tetra packs, to be charged at purchase price. The smarter ones could instead go for fresh juice that costs only Rs 14 (as against a raw material price of Rs 45.10).
The canteens are managed by Northern Railway, and the day-to-day activities are monitored by Joint Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex. The money to feed the lawmakers and staff – and others – are met from the budget grant of Lok Sabha Secretariat, said the under secretary from LS Secretariat, in reply to an RTI filed by noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal dated June 18.
Agrawal alleged that the food prices at these four canteens were revised only twice since Independence. The RTI reply notes that prices were revised on December 24, 2002; April 4, 2003; and the latest on December 14, 2010.
This heavy subsidy enjoyed by the Parliamentarians comes at a time when the Centre is taking increasing steps to cut subsidies across the board.