From Bihar, now the wind of elections has reached West Bengal and all eyes are on Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The biggest question of the year will be on whose head Bengal will put the crown? But who will grab the power and whose hand power will slip away from will be determined by who is promising what to the hoi polloi at large.
Just before the elections, political parties open the pandora’s box that contains promises and inducements. Mamta’s ‘Maa Scheme’ is one such programme under which the promise has been made to offer cheap meal, poor will be embraced and this would make Mamta win the elections in the state (sasta bhojan, gareeb se yaaree ab bangaal kee baaree).
Mamata Banerjee has taken ‘Maa’ from her party’s slogan ‘Maan, Maati and Maanush’ to name this scheme. The scheme has been started from Kolkata which will have 16 common kitchens, which will offer a thali that will cost merely ₹5. This ‘thali’ (plate) will contain rice, lentil, vegetable and egg. The Government intends to slowly implement this scheme in other cities of the State as well.
From South to North, wherever the election strategist, Prashant Kishor, has gone, he has given the idea to initiate such schemes. The first such scheme was announced by former Chief Minister Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu and had started ‘Amma Kitchen’ in her State.
When Prashant Kishor was making strategy for the Congress in the UP elections in 2017, Samajwadi Party and Congress had fought the elections together. At that time, the then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had announced that if his coalition wins the elections then they too will start ‘Samajwadi Kitchen’, something like Amma Kitchen in his State.
Since the election is round the corner, so fingers will be raised at the schemes of Mamata Banerjee’s government. But it is to be remembered that during the lockdown, community kitchen had played a major role. Millions of people were fed through the community kitchen for free. Today, many State governments are running such schemes.
The main aim of such a scheme is to provide meals to the poor on cheaper rates with full nourishments. Though the first person to advance the idea of community kitchen some 100 years ago, was none other than Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi used to say that cooking food should be a part of our educational curriculum. After he returned from South Africa, when he visited Shanti Niketan for the first time, he did not like the ways of the students there. He felt that apart from study, students should also do their own work. On March 10, 1915, with the consent of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi started a self-help movement. Under this a community kitchen was also started in which all students used to cook in batches.
Jayalalitha is the pioneer
It was Tamil Nadu government which had started Amma Unavagam on February 19, 2013 which was also famous as Amma Canteen. Under this scheme, the municipal corporations of the State were providing subsidised meals to the people. In these canteens, one gets idli for ₹1, Sanbhar and rice for ₹5 and curd and rice is provided for ₹3 per plate.