Kolkata, Feb 16 (IANS) Ahead of the Assembly polls, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji launched the Maa canteen to provide subsidised meals to the poor and the destitute at a nominal price of Rs 5 a plate. This has rattled the Opposition as it draws parallels with Indira canteen launched by the earlier Congress government in Karnataka and the Amma canteen in Tamil Nadu by the AIADMK government.
Mamata Banerji, while launching the scheme which has a budget of 100 crore, said “Though we give free rations there is still a huge demand for cooked food. Therefore, we are starting these community kitchens. This initiative is for the common people.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is positioning itself as the main challenger to the TMC has taken critical note of it. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said “The CM had kept people hungry and the poor like beggars, and this highlights the distress of the people of the state.”
But Trinamool Congress leader Debasish Kumar said that it will benefit the poor and rejected the charge of politics over it. He hit out at the BJP and said “that the Centre’s schemes are anti-people, that is why they are criticising the scheme as it will benefit the poor and downtrodden.”
According to Planning Commission data using the Tendulkar committee’s estimates, about 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The urban poverty rate in the state is at 15 percent.
The Maa canteen is to benefit these people who are from the deprived section of the population, said a TMC leader not wanting to be named.
The kitchens will be run by self-help groups. The canteens will be open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. everyday. People will get a plate of rice, pulses, a vegetable and egg curry.
During the launch. Mamata Banerjee interacted with officials and the beneficiaries and asked the authorities to sort out the teething problems. She said she will soon have lunch at one of the canteens.
The West Bengal assembly with 294 seats will go to the polls in the next two months. The TMC has 222 seats but the BJP made major inroads in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections winning 18 seats.
Politics in the state have heated up with scores of TMC leaders leaving the party. The latest is Dinesh Trivedi but the TMC has reiterated that it is going to win more than 200 seats in the assembly. The party has launched an app ahead of the polls.
TMC MP Derek O Brien tweeted, “Now check out this brand new mobile app all about Bengal! ‘Didir Doot’ is now available on Play Store. Download now. Thumbs upTells you all about @MamataOfficial’s vision for WBThumbs upYou can be a part of Bengal’s ever-unfolding success story “