The Indira Canteens, a famous project of the previous Congress regime in Karnataka for the urban poor, are about to gain a new lease on life, with the government making plans to reopen them.

Tushar Girinath, Chief Commissioner, BBMP, convened a virtual conference with zonal commissioners and other officials to make a report on the current state of the canteens, which serve subsidized meals.

According to officials, out of the 175 Indira Canteens in Bengaluru, 163 are open and 12 are closed (6 in RR Nagar and 3 in the South zone). Officials were asked to clean these canteens and appoint pourakarmikas to dispose of waste.

Thrilok Chandra K V, Special Commissioner (Health), asked officials to ensure that quality and nutritious food is provided to the public and to develop a proposal for the maintenance of Indira Canteens. Furthermore, zonal commissioners have been asked to reactivate mobile Indira Canteens and provide a report.

Indira canteen

A canteen contractor recently complained that collecting dues has gotten more difficult as payments from the Bengaluru municipality have been delayed for a long period. It was reported that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike had not paid them for the previous 17 months and that about 30-35 crore is owed to them.

But Chief Minister Siddaramaiah stated that he intends to bring back the neglected Indira Canteens during the first press conference of his second term. In order to learn more about their current situation, he declared that they would undergo a makeover and reopen in a month.

Breakfast will now cost Rs 10 instead of Rs 5, according to a BBMP source, and the menu will be expanded to include more foods. Officials have also been directed to include nutritional meal alternatives and to make dinner available on a demand basis.

Indira Canteen is a food subsidy project administered by the Karnataka government that is modelled after Tamil Nadu's Amma canteens. The canteens, which were launched as an iconic initiative by the Congress government in 2017, have allegedly been ignored since the Bharatiya Janata Party assumed control of the state.

A file photo of Indira Canteens in the city
Indira canteens to supply three meals to the migrant workers during the lockdown

When the BJP took power in 2018 when Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress MLAs switched sides, there was concern that the Indira Canteens may be renamed or perhaps closed. The project, however, was revived by then-chief minister B S Yediyurappa. However, the Congress claimed that, rather than closing these canteens immediately, the BJP has been gradually closing them down.

The reduction in budgetary resources was one of the causes for the payment delay. The Karnataka government had been subsidising the BBMP's operation of Indira Canteens in Bengaluru by 30%. The government allocated Rs 100 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 145 crore in 2018-2019. For the previous two years, no funding has been granted for the scheme since the BJP gained office.

As a result, the BBMP was forced to allocate funding to the canteens from its already limited budget. The local council budgeted Rs 60 crore for the canteens in 2022-23, which is less than half of what was given in 2018-19.

However, the Congress government's decision to reopen the canteen has made the people happy.