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Starved of support, Indira Canteens struggle to dish out meals & salaries

The canteens’ popularity started fading after the Siddaramaiah government was voted out of power in 2018. The erstwhile BJP government reduced funding.
Last Updated : 01 June 2024, 23:39 IST
Last Updated : 01 June 2024, 23:39 IST
Last Updated : 01 June 2024, 23:39 IST
Last Updated : 01 June 2024, 23:39 IST

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Bengaluru: Launched on Independence Day seven years ago during Siddaramaiah’s first term as chief minister, Indira Canteens are now struggling to provide affordable meals to the urban poor. 

Customers are unhappy because food runs out quickly and the menu is “very limited”. Staff are disgruntled because they haven’t been paid for months. Many of the 200 canteens in Bengaluru have shut down. 

“I have seen hunger and suffering,” Siddaramaiah had said in September 2017 as he pledged to make Karnataka hunger-free. 

The canteens became an instant hit as they offered breakfast for Rs 5, and lunch and dinner for Rs 10. Customers were allowed to place multiple orders. 

Indira Canteen photos on New BEL road.

Indira Canteen photos on New BEL road. 

Credit: DH Photo B K Janardhan

The canteens’ popularity started fading after the Siddaramaiah government was voted out of power in 2018. The erstwhile BJP government reduced funding. 

In June 2023, soon after becoming the chief minister for the second time, Siddaramaiah promised to revive the canteens and announced a new funding formula: the state government and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will contribute 50% each. 

However, the revival appears to have run into delays. There is little change on the ground. 

Basic amenities are scarce and meal options have dwindled, leaving canteens in areas like Ejipura, Lakkasandra, Madiwala, Adugodi, and VV Puram facing imminent closure. 

A reality check by DH showed many eateries lacking bustling energy, resulting in barren counters and the absence of customers. 

Many Indira Canteens display almost empty counters and a noticeable absence of customers.

Many Indira Canteens display almost empty counters and a noticeable absence of customers.

Credit: DH PHOTOS/B K Janardhan & S K Dinesh

The Indira Canteen in Ejipura has been shut for more than a month now, apparently to make improvements. 

“There were certain changes that were also brought in terms of the items on the menu, but that particular implementation was not successful. Since the canteen was shut down, people stopped coming,” said Subramani, a marshal deployed at the eatery. 

Basic amenities are also falling short, as electricity remains unavailable for several days, an employee at another Indira Canteen complained. 

There has been a reduction in the number of meals and menu options. 

Many canteens no longer serve idli, a popular breakfast option. 

Manjunathan, a retired bank employee who regularly visits the Indira Canteen in Madiwala (Ward Number 151), complained that the eatery faced many issues. “They have around 90 meals for breakfast, 20-30 for lunch, and 10 for dinner. The canteen shuts down early and there are not many customers because of a shortage of meals. 

Asked about the food options, he said, “We have only pongal and upma for breakfast. They promise us varieties but this is all we get.” 

One of the employees mentioned that salaries have been delayed by up to four months.

“The other employee who works with me is scared and will not admit it, I will. When I asked for my salary from the office, I was sent back. It has been difficult to manage my expenses and family. I have been working for free ever since.” 

Hiring on hold

BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Girinath said there was a delay in hiring new service providers because of the model code of conduct.

“We have completed the process of selecting new agencies to run these canteens. We have sent the file to the state government for approval. The state cabinet will take a final call after the Lok Sabha polls are over,” he told DH. 

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Published 01 June 2024, 23:39 IST

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