Chennai

Amma Canteens yet to get reimbursed for supplying free food during lockdown

The total beneficiaries of the welfare scheme have been estimated at 90 lakh. Photo: File

The total beneficiaries of the welfare scheme have been estimated at 90 lakh. Photo: File   | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

Philanthropists delay payment of at least ₹1.25 crore

The severe economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly affected philanthropists who supported Amma Canteens’ offering of free food to the poor in Chennai.

According to data compiled by the Greater Chennai Corporation, the proposed reimbursement of at least ₹1.25 crore against free supply of food for hungry residents at 407 Amma Canteens has been delayed, leading to the disruption of the free supply of food.

The Corporation stopped the welfare scheme on June 1 as money spent on Amma canteens was yet to be reimbursed by philanthropists who took responsibility for the exercise. Many poor residents have stopped visiting Amma Canteens, with the eateries registering a dip in sales.

According to workers at the canteens, some of them have reported a dip in footfalls and reduction in sales by around 70%. For instance, a canteen which reported a sales of around ₹5,000 per day when food was being supplied free of cost, registered only around ₹1,400 per day after June 1, following the scheme’s suspension.

No suitable NGOs

Amma Canteen workers said the Corporation permitted self-help groups (SHGs) to get funds from NGOs to supply free food for the poor. But SHGs at Amma Canteens have not been able to find suitable NGOs.

Actors who funded the scheme during the lockdown have also stopped giving funds after its relaxation.

Former Corporation Councillor S. Mangala Raj said the government should take responsibility of feeding the poor during the pandemic. “Poor people are unable to pay for subsidised food in Amma Canteens because of a dip in earnings. The government should not advise Chennai Corporation to seek help from big philanthropists. Instead, the government should explore alternatives to feed the poorest of the poor during the pandemic,” he said.

Corporation officials said supply of dry rations and other welfare schemes have been implemented to help the poor. According to the sales report from March 24 to May 31 during the lockdown period, around 1.4 crore beneficiaries were recorded at Amma Canteens in Chennai.

During the period of free sales from April 23 to March 17 and March 20 to March 31, philanthropists promised around ₹3.9 crore for free supply of food. The total beneficiaries of the welfare scheme have been estimated at 90 lakh.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 4:24:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/amma-canteens-yet-to-get-reimbursed-for-supplying-free-food-during-lockdown/article31782839.ece

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