The Tamil Nadu government has set aside a whopping Rs 100 crore for Amma Unavagam, the subsidised canteens across the state, in its election year budget. Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief O Panneerselvam made the announcement in the state Assembly on Friday.
A pet project of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, the state-run budget canteens are expected to get a new lease of life with the introduction of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contributions, beginning this year. “To ensure that this flagship programme reaches out to those who need it the most and is funded on a sustainable basis with a reduced financial burden on urban local bodies, the government has decided to form a not-for-profit Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to finance and manage the Amma Unavagam programme,” said the Deputy Chief Minister, presenting the budget for 2020-21.
Amma Unavagam was launched in 2013 as a social welfare scheme to provide inexpensive, cooked meals to labourers and students. Run by city corporations under the Municipal Administration Department, the scheme has largely enjoyed popularity among the people of the state. However, following the demise of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in December 2016, the scheme has faced a number of issues from low patronage to high operation costs, forcing the shut down of some canteens across Tamil Nadu.
With the introduction of the Special Purpose Vehicle, however, the government hopes to revive the canteens with corporate funding. At present, there are 407 Amma Unavagams in operation across the state with 200 canteens in Chennai city alone.
The SPV will raise CSR contributions from companies and other donations, as per the budget. The government will continue to provide subsidised food grains, assured Panneerselvam.
Moreover, the government will also provide grants to the SPV to cover the shortfall between the expenditure incurred and the revenue, contributions and donations received through CSR outreach. “In the Budget Estimates 2020-21, a provision of Rs 100 crore has been made for this purpose,” announced the Deputy Chief Minister. Further, this year, the Budget also promises easy access of subsidised meals to labourers through mobile Amma Unavagams.
The Deputy Chief Minister said, “The focus on construction workers who are the largest clientele of Amma Unavagams, will be sharpened by establishing mobile units to transport food to work sites.” He added that the success of the canteens has seen it being replicated in other Indian states as well.