Bengaluru’s Indira Canteens face cash crunch; BJP and Congress blame each otherhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/bengaluru-indira-canteens-face-funds-crunch-bjp-cong-blame-each-other-5948434/

Bengaluru’s Indira Canteens face cash crunch; BJP and Congress blame each other

As many as 173 Indira Canteens and 18 mobile outlets were identified to be on the verge of closure after no budgetary allocations were made neither by the state government nor by the BBMP, Bangalore's local civic body. 

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The Congress government, under the leadership of the then CM Siddaramaiah, had started Indira Canteens in Bengaluru on August 15, 2018. Express Photo

Facing cash crunch, the functioning of the Karnataka government’s Indira Canteen, which offers subsidised meals to the urban poor in Bengaluru city, has been called into question. The issue has now sparked political discussions and debates between the ruling BJP government and Congress-JD(S) leaders from the Opposition.

The issue has now become a flashpoint between the two warring sides, with the former chief minister and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah lashing out at Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa accusing him of attempting to ‘axe down’ the canteen.

In a series of tweets made on Wednesday, Siddaramaiah warned that the opposition will protest intensely if the canteens were closed. “We shall never tolerate any attempt to axe down Indira Canteen,” he tweeted.

He further alleged the BJP government is on a spree to downsize or destroy pro-people schemes and policies. “It was Anna Bhagya then & Indira Canteen now. The decision on Anna Bhagya was withdrawn after our threat against any such move,” another tweet read.

The Congress government, under the leadership of the then CM Siddaramaiah, had started Indira Canteens in Bengaluru on August 15, 2018, drawing inspiration from Amma Canteens in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Indira Canteens were appreciated by many as it offered breakfast at Rs 5, and meals at Rs 10 twice a day, in the afternoon and at night.

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With the subsidised food chain expanding to 173 outlets and 18 mobile Indira Canteens in the city, the beneficiaries of the scheme were also on the rise from day-to-day. Over 14.47 crore people have had meals from Indira Canteens so far, according to the BBMP.

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Rahul Gandhi and Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah eat at the Indira Canteen soon after its launch in Bengaluru. (File)

However, the canteens are on the verge of closure after no budgetary allocations were made by neither the state government nor the BBMP, the local civic body.

“If nobody makes any budgetary provision, then there will be a situation to shut it down. Hence, you (corporators) have to take a call on what to do next,” former BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad had said in the last BBMP council meeting he convened on Tuesday, before handing over the charge to his successor BH Anil Kumar.

He further added that funding of Rs 210 crore was sought from the state government earlier this year but no funds were allocated in the state budget for the same.

He explained that funding Indira Canteens was not included in the BBMP budget as it was a state government scheme.

No plans to shut down Indira Canteens: CM Yediyurappa

Amid criticism from the opposition over the issue, CM BS Yediyurappa clarified that the state government had no intention of either closing down or renaming Indira Canteens.

“Rumours that are floated saying we are planning to close Indira canteens are completely baseless. We have decided only to investigate allegations of irregularities in running these food outlets,” he said.

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Siddaramaiah, the then CM of Karnataka and Rahul Gandhi jointly inaugurates the first Indira Canteen in Bengaluru on August 15, 2018. (File)

At the same time, the CM passed the buck back to the BBMP and said the funds to run the canteens will be sanctioned by the local civic body.

He further added that they were complaints raised by many that the number of meals served at Indira canteens was inflated. “This will be looked into by our government. There is no proposal to rename these canteens as of now,” Yediyurappa added.

Meanwhile, deputy CM CN Ashwath Narayan blamed the previous Congress-JD(S) coalition government for neglecting the scheme after its celebrated beginning. “We have no intention to close down Indira Canteens. It should be noted that it is the previous (Congress-JDS) government that failed to release funds to run the scheme. At present, the new government is trying to rectify such loopholes,” he said.