Affirming the need to set up simple and transparent community kitchens for the needy not covered under PDS, Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday announced setting up of a group of state food secretaries to deliberate on the framework of a new scheme. A decision in this regard was taken during a meeting with state food ministers here in the national capital. The meeting was convened following a direction from the Supreme Court, which directed the Centre to come up with a model community kitchen scheme agreeable to states within three weeks’ time.
While announcing setting up of a group of state food secretaries to deliberate on the framework of such scheme, Goyal said, “A community kitchen scheme needs to be prepared — which is simple, transparent and in the benefit of people." A community kitchen needs to be built on four pillars of quality, hygiene, reliability and spirit of service, he said and added, “It will help us realize the goal that no one sleeps hungry." The community kitchen will be of the community, run by the community and for the welfare of the community, an official statement quoted the minister having said in the meeting. Goyal further said, We should have empathy towards the poor of the country and should ensure collective resolve to run successful and transparent food programmes to ensure proper nutrition to children".
The next meeting at the officers level will be held on November 29 to deliberate on the framework proposal. The apex court direction to the Centre came over a writ petition filed regarding establishing community kitchens across the country, formulation of a requisite scheme to provide food to the needy persons and create a national food grid for persons beyond the scope of the public distribution system (PDS) to fight against hunger and malnutrition.
The apex court had also directed all states to attend the meeting to be organised by the Centre and cooperate with them in coming up with the said scheme, which can be made uniformly applicable to all states and union territories. Talking about the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), Goyal said this scheme was a boon to the poor during the pandemic as foodgrains were distributed for free to ration card holders over and above the quota given under the National Food Security Act.
“PMGKAY is probably the world’s largest food programme undertaken in COVID time. No one in the country was deprived of foodgrains..It should be our resolve that quality foodgrain should reach the beneficiaries," he said. During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, the government did not allow any food shortages to occur. The result of collective efforts was that no case of death due to starvation has been reported during the pandemic, he added. Goyal said PMGKAY has now been further extended for four months till March 22. Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey were among others present in the meeting.