Monday, August 23, 2010


A recent firman from GOI directing the canteens serving government employees all over the country to improve the quality of food served at these joints can at best evoke laughter. If issuing circulars can solve problems, every ministry in GOI can issue thousands of circulars every day on every conceivable area of government activities. What is intriguing is the direction to use "branded" ingredients for preparing foods in these cafeteria with the pompous assumption that such a step would improve quality. Knowing well as to how government works, the procurement program, based on lowest quotation , cannot be expected to improve the situation much, especially considering that more than 99.5% of these canteens are under government management. What is not clear is what constitutes a brand? By just packing in a printed sealed plastic pouch and giving a name to the product, can it be considered a branded product? Or does the GOI consider Supermarket goods only as branded? Such orders made in haste can be expected to lead to further under hand dealings when established specifications are replaced by branded materials of unknown quality.

"The ministry of personnel, public grievances and pension has issued a circular to all government canteens asking them to use branded ingredients while preparing food. The circular was issued after babus complained of the food quality in government-run canteens being far more inferior in quality as compared to that being prepared in private canteens. Government canteens must, from now on, display the names of ingredients to their patrons as well, the circular said. The deficiencies came to light after the department of canteens conducted a spot check. "Around eight bureaucrats from different ministries and departments came in person and complained about the quality of food being prepared in their department canteens… We then sent our team to inspect the situation. Conclusively we found that the quality of food being served in government canteens was not up to the mark," Rajiv Manjhi, director of canteens, told DNA. Government canteens have been asked to use branded ingredients to prepare food. "But while implementing this order, the prices of meals may also increase," Manjhi said. The ministry of personnel, public grievances and pension runs 1,351 canteens across the country of which six are private canteens".

Already the government employees are known for their lackadaisical approach to work and lowest productivity in the country. No body is grudging the right of employees to safe foods and there are established procedures for procuring cooking materials from the open sources in the market. When public-private partnership is being widely talked about, it is for the government to pass on the catering responsibility to private sector with some inclusive conditions. In a country where government employment is very much sought after and the government employees on the pay roll are at least 50% more than actually required, making the canteen workers government employees does not make any sense.


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