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9 February 2016

Jan Ahaar: how not to feed people

Sometimes, good intention looks like the middle finger.

The Delhi government's Jan Ahaar scheme that set out to sell nutritious food at cheap price to poor people--labourers who need high energy food to last the day--are now giving maida bhatura at Rs18 a plate. From 200 stalls in 2012 when the scheme started there are about 40 of them left today. One of India's largest companies had donated some money to the Delhi government to be plonked in the scheme. But that piggy bank is long gone. Some non-profits have taken over Jan Ahaar operations. That's a nice way of saying "contractors". So, instead of food stalls run by people who would directly benefit from sales, contractors bid for the stalls and run them as any other 'canteen'.

At the time the scheme started the Delhi government had said it intended to give a meal having at least 1,000 calories. A plate was supposed to have six puris, four rotis and some rice. But walk in any Jan Ahaar stall and you get the standard two pieces of maida bhatura and chole. That's it. The only people who seem to be eating them at the Jan Ahaar stalls in Delhi's old city area, Chandni Chowk, are mostly shopkeepers who need a quick snack at high noon when customers don't come.

What about the people for whom the stalls were set up in the first place? Food for thought.

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Journalist. Taking a walk in India. | Email to journeybasket[at]gmail | Special thanks to M.S. Gopal | All rights reserved. No commercial use.

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