KARNATAKA CHIEF Minister Siddaramaiah and the Congress used the opening of the first batch of 198 low-cost food canteens, called Indira Canteens and modelled on the Amma canteens for the poor in Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday as a virtual platform to launch the party’s campaign for the Assembly elections scheduled early next year.
The Indira Canteens are aimed at the working class in Bengaluru who struggle to eat two square meals every day, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said, after eating at the canteen. “There are millions of people, like construction workers, those who own small shops, autorickshaw or taxi drivers, barbers and others who do not earn much much money. This Indira Canteen is for them,’’ he said. “I am proud to say that we have been able to ensure that in the coming months, no poor person will stay hungry.”
“Even BJP leaders who are criticising these efforts will stand in line for the food because it is of high quality. They cannot complain if we are filling the stomachs of the poor,” Rahul said.
Siddaramaiah said the BJP is raising opposition to the Indira Canteens because they are opposed to the poor. “Those who go hungry every day because they cannot afford food will understand the value of these canteens,” he said.
He accused BJP national president Amit Shah, who recently visited the state, of spreading lies about the Congress government. “He employs criminal tactics to fight the opposition. He does not know how to work within the confines of the law and the Constitution,” Siddaramaiah said.
The Indira Canteens in 198 wards of Bengaluru are being set up in properties belonging to the city corporation. The Chief Minister has denied accusations that land identified for parks and playgrounds were being utilised to build the canteens.
In the first phase on Wednesday, 101 canteens were launched and another 97 are set to be launched on October 2. A total of 27 kitchens are being established around Bengaluru by the Mangalorean origin catering contract firm Cheftalk Food and Hospitality Services. The canteens will serve breakfast for
Rs 5 and lunch, dinner for Rs 10. Each of the canteens is meant to serve 500 people at every meal, according to city officials.
The Siddaramaiah government is projecting the Indira Canteens as a flagship programme of the party alongside populist schemes such as the distribution of seven kg of foodgrains free of cost to every member of a poor family and free milk for schoolchildren, introduced by the Congress government at the start of its tenure in May 2013.