New Delhi: Congress leader Rasheed Masood may claim that “one can eat well” for as little as Rs 5 in Delhi, but according to owners of small restaurants in Delhi, that meal would have to be as small as a dry chapati.
Owners of small restaurant and street-side food vendors who Firstpost spoke to said that even a simple plate of dal and two chapattis cost over Rs 20.
“Half a plate of dal and two rotis cost 23 rupees – and that’s the cheapest meal one would get at my hotel,” says Mohammed Samir, owner of Subhanallah Hotel near the Jama Masjid.
While the hotel is around 60 years old, Samir has been running the hotel with his brothers for the past 30 years.
“Since the time I started sitting at the hotel and managing it, I can safely say that the cost of ingredients and vegetables is ten times the rate it was when I began,” he said.
Nayyab bhai, who sits in the scorching heat and dust selling biryani in a by-lane leading to Delhi’s famous Jama Masjid for six hours daily, says nothing is available at his stall for Rs 5.
Nayyab, who has been selling biryani outside the masjid for the past eight years, says when he first began his business he sold a full plate of biryani for Rs 10. Today he sells half a plate for Rs 20.
The cheapest item on the menu of Punjab Restaurant on Aurobindo Marg in Delhi, which can be considered a very affordable place to eat a meal, is a chapatti for Rs 6.
“What can one get in 5 rupees? Nothing. Only people who steal and eat will be able to eat in that amount,” Raj Kumar, the manager and owner’s brother-in-law told Firstpost, adding, “A basic dal and rice here costs 120 rupees.”
Gurpreet Singh, owner of next-door restaurant Sona Restaurant, says the Congress minister is stuck in the year 1995.
“I started managing the hotel in 1995 and that time we used to charge 10 rupees for half a dal fry and 1 rupee for a chapati. Today the same thing costs 45 rupees and 6 rupees,” Singh told Firstpost.
“How can we serve food for 15 to 20 rupees when everything is so expensive? ” asks Singh.
“Onions cost 40 rupees a kg, tomatoes cost 80 rupees a kg and cooking gas costs 1400 rupees per cylinder of 19 kgs. Over and above that we have to pay our employees and have overheads. How can we ever bring down the food to that price?” he said.
Even 18-year-old Vikas Kumar, whose ‘moth’ kachori was the cheapest meal we could find, sold his fare at Rs 10 for half a plate.
Kumar, who hails from Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, has been selling ‘moth’ dal and kachori in Chawdi Bazaar, on his cycle over the past five months. He sells a single kachori and ‘moth’ dal for Rs 10 and a full plate with two kachoris for Rs 15. He also sells ‘moth’ dal and rice for Rs. 15.
In a recent interview to Firstpost, even Stri Shakti, an NGOs contracted to prepare and distribute Midday meals said that the Rs 3.11 per child plus 100 gms of rice and wheat each that the government provides is not enough to cover their costs.
“We get 100 gms of rice and wheat per child + Rs 3.11/child (for other ingredients, vegetables, oil, transport). While we have a tie-up with ingredient companies and wholesale vegetable vendors, enabling us to buy at less than MRP, we spend Rs 5-6/child in Delhi,” Jaspreet Singh, Manager, Srti Shakti told Firstpost.
Also see photo post by me on 'What you can (or can't) eat at Rs. 5'
This piece was written for Firstpost.com