Punjab subsidised kitchens shelved for indefinite period

LAHORE - Launched with all the fanfare, Madni Dastarkhawan – a Punjab-wide project of about 600 subsidised kitchens – has been delayed for an indefinite period, over reasons yet unknown.
In November last year the Punjab government announced establishment of 600 subsidised kitchens in all the major cities of the province under public-private partnership.
According to sources, originally the project was to begin with the help of donations from local philanthropists and subsidy from the provincial government, but no follow up on part of the authorities with the district administrations shows their lack of interest in a public welfare scheme.
The decision of establishing subsidised kitchens had come from a cabinet committee constituted by the chief minister. The committee, in a meeting chaired by Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, had gone through three models of subsidised kitchens, and decided to go with the time-tested model of ‘Madni Dastarkhawan’, being operated by former Punjab Assembly member Haji Muhammad Nawaz.
Committee chief Mashhood Khan had okayed the model presented by Nawaz in the light of Quranic injunctions regarding provision of meal to the poor.
Under the project worth Rs120 million, subsidised kitchens would be monitored by Dastarkhawan societies at the district level. These societies would also maintain the record and submit a report to the district coordination officer[s] on a weekly basis.
Under the project, the government will pay owners of mechanical and clay tandoors charges for baking chapattis instead of providing them with subsidised flour. Each mechanical tandoor will be linked to three kitchens.
With the government giving a subsidy of Rs5 on each meal and philanthropists Rs10, a destitute will only have to pay Rs15 for one-time quality meal. The project would facilitate over 300 million poor people annually.
Sources said Rana Mashhood Khan had called a report from officers of the industries, commerce and investment departments about identification of places for installation of mechanical tandoors within a week. But, they added, the report had yet to be submitted to the chief minister for the final approval.  Mashhood Khan was not available for comments when this scribe tried to contact him.
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