Food served in the parliamentary canteen should cost more as will no longer be doubted, Lok Sabha Om Birla speaker he said on Tuesday (January 19th).
The low rate of food in the parliamentary canteen has often caused controversy, and critics have objected to lawmakers enjoying a cheap meal at the expense of taxpayers. Others pointed out that the subsidy does not only benefit MPs, as a multitude of Parliament staff and security staff also eat in the canteen.
However, in 2019, all MPs “unanimously” decided to abolish the subsidy.
Exactly how cheap is the food in the parliamentary canteen and how much did the government spend on it?
When President Birla announced the end of the subsidy, he did not specify how much the government would save with the move. However, a news agency PTI he said the Lok Sabha secretariat could save more than 8m kuna a year with an incentive coming to an end.
The parliamentary canteen has been run by the Northern Railway for the past 52 years, whose officials said the annual revenue from Parliament’s hospitality was in the amount of 15 to 18 million. The Northern Railway would be paid the cost of running the canteen by the Ministry of Finance through Parliament.
From this year, catering will be provided by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC).
Great anger over the subsidy erupted in 2015, when a response to an RTI inquiry by activist Subhash Agrawal revealed that the canteen had won a subsidy of HRK 14 million each year.
The list of items received under the Right to Information Act revealed that items such as ‘fish fried with chips’ are available at a price of HRK 25, mutton cutlet at a price of HRK 18, vegetables cooked at a price of HRK 5, mutton curry with bones of 20 kunas and masala dosa at a price of 6, with rates subsidized by 63 per cent, 65 per cent, 83 per cent, 67 per cent and 75 per cent.
Was the entire amount spent on MPs ’food?
Not. In addition to food, the subsidy is used for other expenses, such as the salaries of canteen staff. Also, many people other than MPs use the canteen. In fact, when the RTI inquiry was submitted in 2015, the sales in the canteen during the session of the Parliament, and when it was not, were almost the same.
Of the total subsidy of HRK 14 million revealed in the RTI inquiry, about 11-12 million kuna would go towards the salary canteen staff.
Most of the canteen’s customers are officials of Parliament, ministries whose standing / advisory committee meetings are held in Parliament or its annexes, members of other parliamentary committees who come during and between sessions, as well as parties that hold press conferences there. Daily sales tub Parliament did not sit in 2015 it amounted to Rs 2,099,970.70. On the day it was, the figure was 2,088,670.59 Rs.
Demand for abolition of subsidy
After fierce criticism after RTI’s response, the then BJD MP Baijyant Panda wrote to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitri Mahajan, to remove the food subsidy related to MPs “in order to raise public confidence in legislators”.
Subsequently, in 2016, the prices were revised after a six-year lag, and it was decided that the canteen would operate “without profit and without losses”. Thus, the cost of sheep curry increased from 20 to 40 kuna. Thallium vegetables now cost 35, up from 18 earlier, while chicken biryani was up for 65.
Then, in December 2019, with Om Birl as president of Lok Sabha, lawmakers “unanimously” decided to give up the subsidy.
Prices after the latest move are not yet known.
Will the subsidy be removed for everyone?
At a meeting in December 2019 which decided to abolish the subsidy, the leader of Congress Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury pointed out that the move could hit hard on hundreds of employees and media staff coming to Parliament. Chowdhury said it would be unfair to expect them to pay high costs and suggested that the subsidy be withdrawn only for parliamentarians. Some members of the ruling party agreed with him. It is not yet clear how the decision will be implemented.