Chief minister Anandi Patel on Sunday appealed to people to focus on building centralised kitchens to feed children instead of constructing temples. “If we can provide quality food to children under mid-day meal scheme, we can drastically decrease the dropout ratio. I believe that it’s better to build kitchens to feed children than building temples,” Patel said, inaugurating a fully-automated kitchen, built by an NGO “The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF)”, at Bhadaj village on Sunday.
Patel also urged corporates to openly donate to ensure each household has a toilet. Else, she said, she would collect their Income Tax (I-T) details, along with profits earned by each of them and the activities under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), on the basis of which she would assign responsibility of talukas to one company each.
“All the major companies are having their CSR budget. My government has already acquired account statements of each and every firm operating in Gujarat to see how much they are giving back to society. In coming days, all these firms will be asked to adopt villages in their respective areas and build toilets through their CSR budget,” she said.
Patel put the responsibility on companies of clearing this “blotch” on the state and even questioned them if they do not feel ashamed to see women and young girls defecate in the open.
“Women and young girls have to wait for the entire day to get dark so that they can venture out to defecate. There are 80-year-old women who are not able to see properly, but have to suffer this daily. So, I request you all to donate for toilets with special emphasis to take forward the districts of Bhavnagar and Jamnagar,” she said. She added that when she was the education minister, Narendra Modi had asked her to collect Income Tax return details of all government companies.
“Since there was shortage of kerosene oil, I approached him, requesting him to allocate funds to provide LPG cylinders to anganwadi centres. With his suggestion, it not only helped the companies to save their income tax, but also provided each anganwadi centre an LPG cylinder, gas stove and a pressure cooker,” she said.
The chief minister, along with Minister of State for Women and Child Development Vasuben Trivedi, inaugurated the 23rd kitchen by Akshaya Patra Foundation in the presence of key donors and dignitaries. The foundation started its operation in Gujarat in 2007 from a rented kitchen in Gandhinagar.
The three-storey automated kitchen, built at an estimated cost of Rs 15 crore, is the largest in the country. It is equipped to cook two lakh meals in less than five hours with an indigenously designed roti-making machine which rolls out 60,000 rotis in one hour.
The 44 distribution vehicles will transport meals from the centralised kitchen to more than 1.3 lakh children in 666 government schools in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar every day. About 4.5 tonnes of rice, 8 tonnes of vegetables and 3 tonnes of dal will be cooked every day. It will also churn out wheat-based bakery products and cookies for government school children from its in-house bakery.
Madhu Pandit Das, chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, said, “At present, over 4 lakh children in over 1,600 government schools in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Vadodara and Surat are fed. We aim to take this number to 50 lakh children by 2020. Further, for expansion in Gujarat, the foundation would be focusing on Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Bharuch and Anand.”
The Hans Foundation is the principal donor for this kitchen. It is co-sponsored by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC). Chimanlal Agrawal and Nandlal Agrawal donated the land on which this kitchen has been built at Bhadaj in Ahmedabad.