In a first of its kind programme, the Burdwan district administration has launched a scheme to provide food to poor people at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 10 per meal. The “self-sustainable” scheme, named ‘Annapurna’, will initially extend the benefit to 2,000 people.
“We have launched an initiative for providing a healthy, sumptuous meal of Rs 25 at a subsidized cost of Rs 10 per meal per head only in Burdwan. At present, confined to around 2,000 meals (lunch) per day for four hours, we will shortly extend the timings to make it a 12 to14-hour service without any numerical limitation. It is going to be a self-sustained initiative which has got tremendous response from the people,” said Soumitra Mohan, DM, Burdwan.
Mohan added that this is a first of its kind initiative in West Bengal “to be run with patronage from the people of Burdwan town, including philanthropic donations from business community and ordinary citizens”.
The scheme, which is being implemented by a newly-formed Burdwan Annapurna Foundation Trust, kicked off in Burdwan from May 1 serving vegetarian meal at Rs 10 to beneficiaries. The menu comprised of rice and dal, two vegetables and dessert.
Even though there is no direct financial aid from the government, the 37-member Foundation formed by the district administration has the district magistrate as its president and SP as ex officio member while Burdwan Municipality and business community are active partners in the initiative.
The Foundation has already received Rs 40 lakh in donations —- both in cash and kind. It plans to soon have its own building and infrastructure to run the service, which presently is functioning from the old Tinkonia Bus Stand in the town.
“Already, more than 1,000 people have taken either annual or lifetime membership of the Foundation. We plan to cover each and every family here for membership while forming a database of their birthdays, marriage anniversaries, and other important happy and not-so-happy family occasions. The Foundation members will call them in advance asking them to volunteer and share responsibility for feeding a limited number of people to mark the said happy and unhappy occasions”.
Mohan said the scheme will be soon replicated in two other towns in the district, including Katwa and Asansol.
Similar schemes are already operational in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. The difference between the scheme run in other states and the one started in Bengal is funding. The latter is a self-dependent scheme.