Mamata Banerjee has seemingly taken care of life’s fundamental essential for sustenance ~ food. The Chief Minister’s Maa (Mother) scheme was initiated at the state secretariat, Nabanna, on Monday with attendant grandstanding. In Bengal, the Maa scheme envisages an almost incredibly subsidised four-course lunch at Rs 5 per plate ~ rice, lentils, vegetables and egg curry.

The scheme recalls Jayalalitha’s Amma Unavagam in Tamil Nadu… with the added attraction for elbow-benders; it is reminiscent too of the Congress Indira canteens which were put in place during the party’s regime in Karnataka and Maharashtra’s Shiv Bhojan Scheme, introduced by the Shiv Sena.

The fact that the West Bengal Chief Minister has allocated Rs 100 crore in this year’s vote-on-account for the midday energiser would suggest that the financial implications have been calibrated. She has reportedly asserted that funding will not be an issue. Having said that, the very frequent increase in the price of fuel will be a factor to contend with, with or without the occasional central subsidy for cooking gas.

Another point of cavil must be that the scheme intends to cater to an indeterminate number of people and it shall not be easy to calculate the total outlay.

In trying to abide by the Benthamite doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number, both the distribution of meals and the total outlay shall not be easy to calculate. Going by her inaugural address, the scheme is meant “both for destitutes as well as others across Bengal” Hence perhaps the Chief Minister’s supplementary ~ “Sure, there could be some teething troubles, but beyond that, this will certainly make a big difference.”

Considering the menu, the government’s subsidy of Rs 15 per plate seems to be wholly inadequate, almost a pittance when one reflects on the ballooning food inflation, with which it must of necessity be contextualised. It might be tempting to debunk the initiative as an instance of election-eve gimmickry. The barb can be accepted with a modified ‘yes’.

Though the timing is bound to raise suspicions, overall it ought not to militate against the inherent benevolence of ‘Maa’ For once, Miss Banerjee has been impressed by the Bengal Left. Albeit political, an interesting sidelight is that she was influenced by the community kitchens set up by the CPI-M when the pandemic was at its peak ~ April, May and June.

The Left’s endeavour was generally welcomed. Thus it was that she decided on the follow-through, matched with the pledge to improve the quality of the fare and the distribution. points ~ the boroughs of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and in the district headquarters.

Implicit is the cardinal message ~ Food for All. Much will, however, hinge on the effectiveness of the execution. Chiefly to ensure that the ingredients don’t make a round-trip to the open market in the manner of foodgrain earmarked for the ration shops.