India

Parliament prepares to use food cards, as digital drive fails

07 Dec 2017 | By Krunali Shah
Parliament canteens: Are they digital yet?

After demonetization, efforts were made to promote the use of credit and debit cards in Parliament's four canteens. However, this drive failed to take off. Now, MPs and parliament staff might be given prepaid food cards to push for cashless transactions.

The mechanism of using these cards will be similar to metro smart cards.

Why didn't the digital drive succeed? Read on!

In context: Parliament canteens: Are they digital yet?

07 Dec 2017Parliament prepares to use food cards, as digital drive fails

Parliament canteensHow do the Parliament's canteens work?

Of the four canteens in Parliament, one is only for MPs; the rest for parliament staff, journalists and visitors.

The Parliament canteens' food is priced 50% less than the market price. The government provides the subsidy amount.

However, the government is not responsible for approving subsidies. A "Joint Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex" constituted every year looks into the matter.

ConsumptionHow many people eat in these canteens?

As per food committee's 2015 data, about 4,500 people eat in canteens when Parliament is in session.

However, net sales are much lower than the total cost of running the canteen. As per 2013-14 data, the total cost was Rs. 18cr, but net sales were only Rs. 4cr.

In 2015, there was public outcry over the subsidy provided; but, despite revision, prices remain low.

Digital drive failsNow, why didn't the digital drive take off?

After PM Narendra Modi announced demonetization move, LS speaker Sumitra Mahajan introduced point of sales (POS) machines in Parliament cafes.

However, it failed to become popular as MPs preferred to pay for the food by cash, as food prices are low. For example, a vegetarian thali costs Rs. 40 and a masala dosa Rs. 20.

Within a few months, POS machines disappeared.

New stepsWhat steps are being taken to promote cashless transactions now?

Now, the LS secretariat is planning to introduce cards.

Additional secretary in the LS secretariat Ashok Kumar Singh said, "We have tied up with the State Bank of India (SBI) to introduce the new system. There will be card readers in the canteens and it will make payments easier than dealing with cash."

Further, the cards can be refilled in Parliament's bank complexes.

Meanwhile, Parliament has been successfully using e-payments

Meanwhile, though the digital drive was unsuccessful in canteens, LS secretariat has successfully shifted to transferring salaries to members' bank accounts and paying vendors and support staff through e-payments. The RS has its own e-payment system. In November, LS secretariat disbursed Rs. 40cr through e-payments.