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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chennai eating more Idlies thanks to CM - Corpn incurs loss on every idly sold

South Indians are known connoisseurs of food, fond of rice dishes.  The rice cake is closest to their hearts.  These 2 to 3 dia rice cakes made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented dehusked  lentils and rice, more famously known as “Idli” is devoured by all.  Hotels and eateries, big or small – sell them in large numbers irrespective of the time of a day as children and elderly people, alike eat this as this is not only feasty but also most healthy food easily digestible.  It goes well with coconut chutney, green chutney made of puthina or with sambar made with small onions.  The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body.

Idlies served hot with side dish are devoured by people.  In most hotels, people often start their orders with 2 idlies or with idly/vada.  There are hundreds of hotel in every part of Chennai and can you believe that one hotel attracts hundreds only for its ‘sambar idli’.  At a time when pastas / burgers and pizzas sell, people throng this hotel for ordering idly.  Steaming hot idlies are served almost everywhere.  Triplicane Ratna Café is famous for its ‘sambar idly’ ~ the most ordered food– steaming hot rice cakes soaked in onion sambar dwarfing the idlies themselves.  Before you would finish half, the friendly server would pour more sambar. 

Now Chennai is basking in Idlies thanks to CM Amma.  On 2nd of April 2013, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa opened 127 more budget canteens, taking the total number in the city to 200. with these, the Corporation is serving 2.73 lakh idlis to hungry customers every day.  Corporation officials said residents of all 200 wards can now have an idli (100g) at 1, sambar rice (350g) at 5 and curd rice (350g) at 3. The budget canteens will provide idlis from 7am to 10am, and sambar rice and curd rice between noon and 3pm. The 200 canteens will sell 2.73 lakh idlis, 62,500 plates of sambar rice and 34,500 plates of curd rice a day. The chief minister told the Assembly that the scheme will be extended to other corporations shortly.

Set up at a cost of 5 lakh each, the canteens draw hundreds of customers every day, with queues stretching onto the road every morning and afternoon. At some places, people start waiting much before the opening of the canteens.  TOI reports that perhaps the only place affected is the  Mylapore canteen, which sells 1,500 idlis and 250 plates of rice a day; the sales here are lowest because it is located next to the Sai Baba temple which serves free food.

The initial reports suggest that people are indeed satisfied with the quality and taste of the food dished out of these canteens. The 73 canteens, which were opened in the first phase on March 6, earn revenue of 2,500 to 4,500 a day and provide jobs to 840 women.

The Hindu reports of a different angle.  In the newsitem of date, the  city’s budget canteens may produce a variety of food at reasonable prices, delighting residents, but losses are taking toll on their sheen. For every famed, Re. 1 idli that that is consumed at the Amma canteens, the Chennai Corporation loses 86 paise.

Hours after inauguration of the 127 new Amma canteens on Tuesday, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said these eateries were one of the efforts taken by the State government to tackle price rise. She attributed the rise in price of food products to the hike in diesel prices by the Central government. “The Chennai Corporation spends Rs. 1.86 on each idli served in the canteen. The State government supplies rice at a cost of Re. 1 per kg to the Corporation. The Corporation procures other raw materials in the market and manages the canteens. The Corporation incurs a loss of 86 paise for an idli,” said the Chief Minister.

“If this government claimed that each idli cost Rs. 10 and said it was incurring a loss of Rs. 9, that statement would be as erroneous as the claims of under-recovery made by oil companies. Their claims are made based on flawed calculations,” said Ms.Jayalalithaa. According to a Corporation official, one kg of subsidised rice supplied at Re. 1 by the State government along with 300 grams of urad dal is enough to make 45 to 50 idlis. So the money spent on rice for each idli is 2 to 3 paise in an Amma Canteen. Around 20 paise is spent on urad dal for each idli. The task of procurement of vegetables for sambar is the most challenging aspect of the operation, for the Amma Canteens, officials said. Sambar is given free of cost with the idlis. The cost of fuel, masala and vegetables for sambar crosses 110 paise for each idli, the official said. The Corporation procures cooking gas at commercial rates of Rs. 1,780 per cylinder. The eateries are part of an ambitious project aimed at providing healthy food at reasonable prices to residents living in slums, daily labourers, drivers, load-men and migrant workers.

So Idlies the most favoured rice balls have this big background in Tamilnadu, even as more people are eating them in the mornings.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd April 2013.

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