Chennai Corporation may rope in private sector to fund low-cost canteens

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CHENNAI: The Chennai Corporation hopes to rope in the private sector to support the low-cost canteens, the ‘Amma Unavagam’, as part of their corporate social responsibility.

The subsidised canteens run by the Chennai Corporation, are a big hit among the people. A wide segment ranging from daily wage earners to professionals patronise the canteens. When launched in February last year the canteens served around 6,000 idlis every day, today they serve over 10,000 idlis. The sales of other items on the menu, including sambar rice and curd rice, have increased.

Chennai CorporationThe Corporation hopes the private sector will participate in funding canteens as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. This will also reduce the subsidy burden of the State Government, said an official in the Chennai Corporation.

The canteens provide food to nearly two lakh people on a daily basis and employment to nearly 4,000 women who run them.

Every day, the Corporation spends Rs 14 lakh but the revenue is about Rs 9 lakh. The Government subsidises the deficit of Rs 5 lakh. The annual outgo for the Corporation is about Rs 18-20 crore, said the official who did not want to be named.

The Corporation hopes to stem the loss and develop a sustainable model to run the canteen.

“We have approached companies for other social measures like skill development, education and healthcare. They can also look at the canteen service being a social welfare measure,” he said.

“My daily expenditure on food has reduced to around Rs 25 a day as against Rs 75,” he said,” said the 65-year-old S. Mani, a rickshaw puller, and a regular at ‘Amma Unavagam’ in Triplicane.

A hot and fluffy idly costs Rs 1 compared with Rs 5 in a mobile cart, while a plate of sambar rice is priced at Rs 5 against Rs 20 in the mobile cart, he said.

The Corporation plans to mechanise food preparation, including ready-mix for preparing idly. The private sector can help us mechanise, the official said.

Every month, nearly 500 tonnes of rice and 200 tonnes of wheat are supplied for canteens at a subsidised rate.

The State Government plans to introduce 1,000 canteens in a phased manner. So far, 203 have been established in the city and 90 in other corporations. Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka are also considering replicating the concept, the official said.

[Business Line]

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