MPs, Staff to Get Food Cards to Pay Bills at Parliament Canteens

India.com News Desk
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New Delhi, December 6: In a yet another move to promote cashless transaction, members and Parliament staff may get prepaid “food cards” to pay bills at House canteens. On the lines of a metro card, the Lok Sabha secretariat is preparing to introduce these cards after a failed attempt to promote the use of credit and debit cards in Parliament’s four canteens.

“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,” Ashok Kumar Singh, who is additional secretary in the Lok Sabha secretariat and is in charge of the canteens, said.

The cards can be recharged at bank’s Parliament complex branches, the Hindustan Times reported.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had launched POS (point of sales) machines in all the cafes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016 announced old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 banknotes as illegal tender.

But the Parliamentarians preferred to pay for their food in cash. “A vegetarian thali costs around Rs 40. A masala dosa is priced at Rs 20. People continued to pay these small amounts in cash,” an official said.

Of the four canteens, one is exclusively for Members of Parliament. The other three are used by Parliament staff, journalists and visitors. When Parliament is in session, around 4,500 people eat in the canteens every day, according to an estimate provided by the food committee of the Lok Sabha in 2015, the latest data available.

Sources said that card payments were not more than Rs 50,000 a month, which is less than five per cent of the total transactions.

“Normally, MPs consume snacks and tea and coffee in Parliament’s Central Hall. For such small amounts they prefer to pay in cash. The SIM card-attached POS machines don’t work in Central Hall due to jammers. MPs find it cumbersome to go to the POS machine in one corner of the Central to enter the pin,” said BJD MP Tathagata Sathpathy.

In an another move, Parliament successfully introduced e-payments for all members, staff and vendors in April. Instead of cheques, the Lok Sabha secretariat now transfers salaries directly to members’ bank accounts. The Rajya Sabha has its own e-payment system.