The Maharashtra government on Sunday lowered the price of Shiv Bhojan meal from ₹10 to ₹5 to make it accessible to the poor and needy during the lockdown. The revised rate will be applicable till June-end.
Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Minister Chhagan Bhujbal also announced to expand the scheme to every tehsil of the State and increase the number of beneficiaries to one lakh. Meals will be distributed at designated centres between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., every day.
“At present, the entire country is in lockdown in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. People are not getting any work and they may run out of money soon. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure nobody sleeps hungry. As a result, we have decided to reduce the price of every meal to ₹5 from ₹10,” Mr. Bhujbal said.
The State will bear the total expense of ₹160 crore by paying ₹45 per meal in urban areas and ₹30 per meal in rural areas in the form of subsidy to those running Shiv Bhojan canteens. The target given to every district has been increased five times.
Mr. Bhujbal said district collectors had been directed to open Shiv Bhojan centres in every tehsil by April 1. “This scheme is mainly for those who are running out of money and cannot make provision for their own food. Homeless, migrant labourers, and outside students must not go hungry.”
As per the government directives, the canteen operators must provide soaps to customers, prefer giving packed food, ensure highest level of cleanliness, and use masks, among others. A minimum distance of three feet must be ensured between customers.
Shiv Bhojan is a flagship scheme of the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and was part of the Shiv Sena’s election manifesto, later included in the common minimum programme of the MVA government. The scheme was launched in Maharashtra on January 26, and the government has planned to expand it phase-wise.