Indira Canteens, a project undertaken by the Siddaramaiah government to provide food for the underprivileged at affordable rates was started in 2017.

Indira Canteens in Bengaluru on the verge of shutting down says cash strapped BBMP
news Civic Issues Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - 17:17

With no funds to pay contractors, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike officials say that Indira Canteens are on the verge of shutting down in the city.

The cash-strapped BBMP is struggling to pay subsidies to the contractors of 174 Indira Canteens in the city. This is because the state government had made no budgetary allocation for Indira Canteens in Bengaluru for the 2019-2020 fiscal.

Former BBMP Commissioner, Manjunath Prasad, had earlier in August requested the Finance Department to grant funds so the contractors could be paid. However, the money has not been sanctioned by the government.

“If these funds are not released, the canteens will have to shut down,” Manjunath Prasad said. Indira Canteen, an ambitious project undertaken by the Siddaramaiah government to provide food for the underprivileged at affordable rates was started in 2017. However, after the Congress-JD(S) coalition government came to power, the government did not provide adequate funds for the project, leaving the BBMP with deficit fund. The newly formed BJP government seems to have no intention of providing any funds for the scheme, and may force it's closure.

Opposition outrages

Meanwhile, there is a larger controversy brewing with the Congress alleging that the government was planning to scrap the scheme. Congress Legislature Party Chief Siddaramaiah, on Wednesday lashed out against Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and claimed that the government was turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor by not sanctioning funds for Indira Canteens.

“Is your tummy so full that you are ignorant about poor man's hunger? Or does your party cater to only elites' appetite? We shall never tolerate any attempt to axe down Indira Canteen,” Siddaramaiah said.

Siddaramaiah accused the BJP of trying to downsize the scheme introduced by the Congress government and said that Indira Canteens were catering to the needs of over 3 lakh people living in poverty.

"A program that has alleviated hunger of many marginalized sections who are the victims of social & economic injustices. Any attempt to target the Canteens will worsen Urban Poverty & poor families' livelihood. Karnataka govt budget is more than Rs 2.3 lakh crore and is BS Yediyurappa finding it so difficult to accommodate Indira Canteen program by providing just Rs 300-400 crore? If the needy is not entitled for subsidized food, even the privileged representatives should be denied of subsidies,” he added.

No adequate funds to pay contractors

According to data obtained from BBMP, the government was supposed to allocate Rs 210 crore every year for Indira Canteens. The canteens currently cater to 14.47 crore people in Bengaluru alone. BBMP Commissiner Anil Kumar said that the funds for Indira Canteens were to be allocated separately and that it was not a part of the BBMP budget as the project was implemented across the state.

In the 2018-19 fiscal, the state government had allocated Rs 145 crore for Indira Canteens in Bengaluru. However, BBMP obtained only Rs 110 crore. “We needed Rs 137 crore totally. The BBMP had to put together the deficit,” Manjunath Prasad said.

In the 2019-2020 budget, framed by the leaders of the Congress-JD(S) coalition, not a single rupee was allocated for Indira Canteens specifically. The budget was passed on July 30 without debate in the Assembly by the newly formed BJP government.

According to BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar, the state government had informed BBMP that the money for Indira Canteen would have to come from the funds allocated for the BBMP.

“For the 2019-2020 budget, the state government had promised to set aside Rs 210 crore for Indira Canteens as the BBMP cannot afford to spend that much and hold up other infrastructure projects in the city. The former BBMP Commissioner (Manjunath Prasad) had written to the government several,” the BBMP official added.



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