Mangalagiri MLA Alla Ramakrishna Reddy on Sunday opened “Rajanna Canteen” at Gautham Buddha Road near Ambedkar statue in Guntur district.
The new canteen, which is hardly 15 km away from Amaravati, the new capital in the making, was launched in memory of the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy. Last year on the lines of the Amma canteens of Tamil Nadu, the TDP government has launched Anna NTR canteen in Andhra Pradesh.
Rajanna Canteen, a mobile van, bedecked with pictures and slogans of YSR, procures food from the kitchen at Tadepalli, run by the MLA and brings it to the Gautama Buddha Centre of Mangalagiri town and supplies it to the poor. The canteen provides sumptuous lunch for the poor at just Rs 4 a plate. The meal comprises sambar rice, vadiyams, curd rice and water packet. In addition, egg would be served four days in a week and banana would be served for the remaining three days. About 500 poor people will be served food in the Rajanna Canteen daily between 12 noon to 1 pm.
Ramakrishna Reddy said, “I have launched the canteen on Sunday to coincide with the day on which late YS Rajasekhar Reddy took oath as chief minister, i.e. May 14, 2004. He was the poor man’s CM, and so, I launched this scheme in his name. We are also considering launching breakfast section in which four idlis would be served at Rs 1. Before starting the Rajanna Canteen, the MLA went to Hyderabad and tasted Rs 5 meal being served by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
Reddy said, “Basically, I am an agriculturist, growing paddy and red gram. That takes care of the meal portion. Besides, I buy eggs and fruits from nearby villages. The overall expenditure for each meal is around Rs 30, but I have decided to supply it for just Rs 4 a plate. I am not a rich man, but I have decided to do my bit for the poor.”
What inspired the MLA was not the NTR Anna Canteen, but a subsidized meal scheme being implemented by Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation which supplies meals for Rs 5. The GHMC meal, which comprises rice, sambar, pickle and curd, caters to the needs of 15,000 people daily. The corporation bears a subsidy of Rs 15 on each meal.
Reddy said “I haven’t taken anybody’s financial support to run Rajanna canteen. That is why I have limited this scheme only to Mangalagiri town.” The entire expenditure for the subsidized meal is being borne by the MLA. “At present, I can feed 500 poor people a day. But, if any voluntary agency comes forward to support my endeavor, I will consider expanding it,”
Asked whether his scheme was a populist one to counter the TDP government’s NTR Anna canteens, the MLA said he had launched the Rajanna Canteen inspired by Y S Rajasekhar Reddy who wanted to provide food to the poor at nominal price. The MLA further criticized the government for not keeping its promise of setting up Anna Canteens across the state for the welfare of the poor and reminded that it allocated Rs 200 crore for them in the state budget.
The MLA said, “Last year, the Naidu government started just one canteen near Secretariat at Velagapudi as a token measure. Though he said the scheme would be expanded to all over the state, he failed to fulfill the promise.”