Raju Das

SHILLONG, Feb 27: Prices of food items in the Parliament canteen, now being catered to by the India Tourism Development Corporation which took over the service from the Northern Railways after 52 years, are cheaper than the rates prevailing in the ordinary restaurants, leave alone the five-star hotels, despite withdrawal of the earlier subsidy.

From the current Budget Session of the Parliament, food served at the Parliament canteen is being prepared by chefs from the New Delhi-based five-star Hotel Ashoka.

“We have stopped the subsidy in our Parliament canteen. After ending the subsidy, we have taken alternative steps to make it better,” Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, who was on a two-day to Meghalaya on Thursday and Friday, said when quizzed on public representatives lunching on five-star hotel dishes at a time when 14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished.

Although the Speaker said the food is not subsidised, a look at the menu with the revised prices suggests otherwise.

For example, a vegetable meal or thaali reportedly consisting of kadai paneer, mixed vegetables, bhaji, dal sultani, peas pulao, chappati, green salad, cucumber mint raita, papad and kala jamun costs Rs 100.

A plate of Hyderabadi mutton biryani costs Rs 65, vegetable biryani Rs 50, vegetable cutlet (2 pieces) Rs 20, omelette masala (2 eggs) Rs 25, lemon rice Rs 30, chappati Rs 3 and a cup of tea is priced at Rs 5.

Birla added that the decision “to do away with subsidy” was taken by the Lok Sabha’s apex body and “members from all political parties unanimously”.

When asked about India ranking 94 out of 107 countries in the global hunger index while MPs are being served food cooked by five-star hotel chefs in the Parliament, Birla on Friday skirted a direct reply.

The Lok Sabha Speaker wants public representatives to “reach out to the last rung of the society,” but when it comes to alleviating the hunger index of the country, he puts the onus on the Government.

According to the Global Hunger Index, 2020, India falls in the “severe” hunger category with  the highest child wasting cases among South Asian countries at 17.3 per cent. Child wasting is primarily caused due to undernutrition.