Bengaluru: The erstwhile Congress government’s pet project, the Indira Canteen -- a subsidized food venture scheme opened 2017 faces an uncertain future, as neither the state government nor the Bengaluru corporation have made any budgetary allocations.
During the corporation council meeting on Tuesday, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Commissioner (BBMP) N Manjunath Prasad explained to the corporators about the challenges to continue the scheme. "In the present situation, neither the BBMP nor the state government has allocated budget. If nobody makes any budgetary provision, then there will be a situation to shut it down. Hence, you have to take a call on what to do next," Prasad said.
BBMP claims that since the project is a state government scheme, it was not accounted for in the BBMP budget for 2019-2020. Further, of the Rs 145 crore that was earmarked by the state government, only Rs 115 crore was released in 2018-19, forcing the municipality to spend from its own resources, the Hindu reported.
"In 2019-20, at the time of approval of the (BBMPs) budget in January, I wrote a detailed letter to the state government saying Indira Canteen was state governments scheme and thus they should reserve Rs 210 crore for this project. Yet, they did not allocate any funds for Indira Canteen in its budget," Prasad told the council.
He said he wrote three letters from January to June this year but there was no response.
The Congress has been accusing the BJP of planning to shut down the Indira Canteens, named after former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi, though chief minister B S Yediyurappa had repeatedly said none of the pro-poor schemes will ever be wound up.
Taking a cue from Amma Canteen in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the Congress government had started the Indira Canteens in Bengaluru on August 15, 2018 ahead of 2018 assembly polls. These canteens offered breakfast at Rs 5 and meals twice a day at Rs 10 per plate in the afternoon and night.
Siddaramaiah, who had launched the project, warned that he will protest vehemently if the canteens were closed and that his party will 'never tolerate any attempt to axe down Indira Canteen'. The Karnataka congress has threatened to protest across the state if the government goes ahead with its move.
Meanwhile, BJP MLA and Deputy Chief Minister, Ashwath Narayan, clarified that his government didn't intend to close down the canteen, but has merely ordered for a probe into the discrepancies in subsidies issued to contractors for the Indira Canteens. "Why did the previous government not released the funds so far? Our objective is only to enquire into the irregularities, we don't want to close the canteens. An investigation must be done", he said.
Currently, food is served in 173 canteens within the BBMP limits as well as 18 mobile canteens across the city, serving over 3 lakh meals on a daily basis.