Notwithstanding the controversy over subsidised food in Parliament canteen, no proposal to raise price is on the cards as the concerned committee insists that such a measure would only hit hard employees and representatives of the media.
“Much hue and cry has been made by a certain TV channel which is especially targeting lawmakers despite the fact that MPs are the ones who are using the facility the least,” A P Jitender Reddy, Chairman of the Food Management Committee of Parliament, said.
Talking to PTI, Reddy lamented the controversy over the issue and said critics were ignoring the fact that subsidised food is made available by several corporates as also public sector undertakings to their employees as one of the facilities.
“If this is the case, then talking only about Parliament does not necessarily send the right message about lawmakers,” he suggested.
He said that he has called a meeting of the Committee tomorrow but insisted that no proposal to revise the rates is on the table.
His refrain was that the “hue and cry” may have been raised on the issue, but the “internal survey” of the Committee has found that during session period, only 150 to 250 MPs out of 800 eat in the canteen at the most.
Generally, there are far less than 100 days in a year when Parliament is in session.
Reddy said that the Committee has found that those availing the canteen facility the most are class four employees of Parliament as also representatives of the media who cover the proceedings.
He also said that if Parliament employees and media representatives are asked to bring food from home, it would create another security problem due to thousands of lunch boxes.
The MPs, he said, have to eat in the canteen many times because they cannot go home as their presence is necessary in Parliament.
Besides, he said in the inter-session period, a minuscule minority of MPs eat in Parliament.
He said the effort in the canteen was to provide hygienic food at affordable prices.
Several MPs belonging to different parties have pitched for discontinuing the subsidy in the wake of the controversy.
An RTI reply last month had revealed that Parliament canteens serving to Members of Parliament got a total subsidy of Rs 60.7 crore during the last five years with items like ‘puri sabji’ being sold at 88 per cent subsidised rates.
The RTI reply had also said that the canteens in Parliament serve 76 dishes ranging from simple boiled egg to various mutton and chicken delicacies which have been subsidised from over 150 per cent to about 63 per cent.
The only item which was sold for a marginal profit was ‘roti’ for which raw items cost 77 paisa while it is sold at Re 1, it said, while ‘khomani ka meetha’ was being served at market price of Rs 15 for piece of three.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said last week that the issue of subsidy and quality of food and service are being addressed through a dialogue with all the stakeholders including Parliament’s Canteen Committee as also the Press Gallery Committee.
Noting that besides the MPs, the canteen is being utilised by journalists, Parliament staff of all levels, security personnel and guests, she had said an individual alone cannot take a call on the issues involved.
“It’s not the MPs alone who eat in the (Parliament) canteen,” she had said.