Bengaluru: Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Monday announced Maatru Poorna, a scheme to provide free hot food and cater to nutritional needs of expecting and new mothers across the state.

The new scheme will provide one nutritious meal a day which will include rice, lentils, green leafy vegetables or sambar with boiled eggs, peanut chikki and 200ml of milk for 25 days in a month, Siddaramaiah tweeted on Monday.

Maatru Poorna joins a long list of populist schemes including Anna Bhagya (free rice) and Ksheera Bhagya (free milk for students) to provide food to the poor and disadvantaged. The schemes are aimed at boosting Siddaramaiah’s popularity ahead of state elections next year.

The scheme was first taken up in four talukas, or administrative units, across the state benefiting around 32,000 women, The Times of India reported in December. It was to be extended to the entire state from July and had a budgetary provision of Rs302 crore.

The new scheme will provide one hot meal a day to pregnant women and lactating mothers from the start of pregnancy to six months after the delivery of the child, antenatal and postnatal care, calcium supplements, deworming, early counselling of parents and maternity benefits, the chief minister said.

Though the exact number of women to be benefited remains unclear, Siddaramaiah said the scheme would help improve health and nutrition of over 1.2 million pregnant and lactating mothers.

The scheme will be available in all 30 districts of the state, Siddaramaiah said. His last such populist venture, Indira Canteen, a scheme to serve subsidised food in Bengaluru, was targeted at the urban poor. Even the Janata Dal (Secular) forayed into the affordable food venture business with the launch of “Namma Appaji Devegowda Canteen", funded privately by a legislator from the party.

“If the experience of Tamil Nadu is anything to go by, popular access to affordable, nutritious food can fare very high in relation (compared to other public schemes) to their populist schemes, which are likely to be sector specific, i.e. school children, the disabled, farmers. Food will be open to all," Chandan Gowda, professor at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru had earlier told Mint.

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