Ram Vilas Paswan talks about his move to ask restaurants to fix food portions.
Food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan had recently gone to a restaurant where he could not finish his food. Wasting food upsets me, he tells Sreeparna Chakrabarty, and talks about his move to ask restaurants to fix food portions.
You have spoken about the need for restaurants to fix portions of food served, but many have expressed doubts over this move saying that the government wants to tell people how much to eat.
It is not true that I have asked restaurants to fix portions to be served. The government is not making any rule. We are just advising that food should not be wasted. It is only that the consumer should be aware.
We want the price and portion to be mentioned on the menu. If the price and quantity can be mentioned on bottles of soft drinks, water and milk then why not for dishes served in eateries?
When you buy a pizza, you know how many people can eat a small pizza, a medium-sized pizza and a large one. Then why can’t restaurants mention the portion and price on the menu card itself?
Do you think all hotels and restaurants waste food?
No, my concern is not with small restaurants and dhabas, I am more worried about the five-star hotels. I will give you an example. There is one variety of Chinese soup that I like a lot. But I always think twice before ordering it as I can finish only one cup and they serve at least six. Even if I get it packed for the next day, I am not able to finish it. This is sheer wastage. It needs to be stopped.
However, the government doesn’t want to open a Pandora’s box by passing a legislation to guide this. We don’t want to interfere. We just don’t want the consumers to suffer.
Have you discussed the issue with the association of hotels?
Yes, we have discussed the issue with associations of hotels and restaurants, who have agreed to take voluntary steps to check food wastage. The representatives of Hotel Association of India, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India, Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India were present in the meeting.
They have informed us that they would take steps to sensitise their staff on the issue. The staff will be trained to interact with customers and inform them about the portion of dishes served clearly.
They have said that some hotels and restaurants have already introduced “half plate” concept for the benefit of customers, while some have introduced good practices like putting a notice board on the quantum of food wasted on a plate by customers could feed to “x” number of hungry people.
How did this idea come to you?
I had been thinking about it for quite some time, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann ki Baat speech triggered my resolve to do something about it. India is a country where many people don’t get enough to eat and in the same country 92,000 crore tonnes of food goes waste. It is high time we addressed the issue.
There were many laudable moves by you like service tax being optional. However, the implementation gets stuck as state governments refuse to execute it.
You are right. But we have sent advisories. And many state governments have already done things to curb wastage of food like Jammu and Kashmir has limited the number of dishes that can be served in weddings. Sometimes even if there is no choice, the consumer should be made aware. This has at least led to a public discourse on the issue. Even if state governments do not implement it, the hotels should do it voluntarily.
And as far as state governments are concerned, they should also cooperate as the Centre is already supplying them with extremely cheap foodgrains under the National Food Security Act.
Recently there was a private member’s bill by a Congress MP on limiting the food being served at weddings. Do you plan to do anything on this?
As of now, all such actions should be voluntary. But if anybody takes any such step, we support it.
How would you rate yourself as far as controlling inflation is concerned?
I am very satisfied with the price rise situation. But concerns of only sugar and pulses have been addressed. As of now we have sufficient stocks of sugar.