The Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government on Sunday launched its much-awaited ''Shiv Bhojan'' scheme, which is aimed at providing a meal to the poor for just Rs 10, on the occasion of the 71st Republic Day.
Under the scheme, which was launched on a pilot basis, thalis or lunch plates would be available to people at designated centres/ canteens during a stipulated time in all the districts.
Launching of the scheme was one of the poll promises made by the Shiv Sena, which shares power with the NCP and Congress in a coalition government.
In Mumbai, district guardian minister Aslam Shaikh inaugurated the "Shiv Bhojan Thali" canteen at the civic-run Nair hospital.
A similar centre was unveiled by Tourism Minister and Mumbai suburban district guardian minister Aaditya Thackeray at the collector''s office in Bandra.
Guardian ministers of Pune and Nashik, Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal formally launched the scheme in their respective districts.
Under the pilot scheme, at least one ''Shiv Bhojan'' canteen has been started at district headquarters.
According to officials, guardian ministers and other dignitaries inaugurated the centers in various districts.
The ''thali'' consists of two chapatis, one vegetable, rice and dal.
The thalis would be available for people between 12 noon and 2 pm, officials said, adding that each canteen is going to serve at least 500 thalis (plates) per day.
On the inaugural day, scores of people queued up at many such centres at various places.
While some people praised the scheme and quality of food, some others demanded that the existing two-hour time be extended.
"The goal of the scheme is to provide affordable and quality food to all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and financial status," tweeted Aaditya Thackeray, after the inauguration of the center.
The state government is expected to incur an expenditure of Rs 6.4 crore for the pilot ''Shiv Bhojan'' thali project that will run for three months.
Even though the customer will have to pay just Rs 10 per thali, the actual cost of the food will be Rs 50 each in urban centres and Rs 35 in rural areas. The balance amount will be given as grant to the district collectorate, according to officials.
The decision on extending the scheme to other parts of the state would be dependent upon the response.
These canteens will function at places where poor persons work or live like at markets, district hospitals, bus stations, railway stations and government offices.
"Initially, 50 ''Shiv Bhojan'' outlets will be set up for people where full meals will be available at Rs 10. We will expand the number of such outlets phase-wise depending on feedback," Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had told the Legislative Assembly.