Will not close Indira canteens, says Karnataka CM

Bengaluru: The Karnataka government is not planning to close down Indira canteens but wanted a detailed inquiry into their functioning, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said on Wednesday.

Yediyurappa’s statement comes in the wake of reports that the canteens, the pet project of the previous Congress government to provide highly subsidised food to the urban poor, are on the verge of closure as neither the state government nor the Bengaluru corporation (BBMP) have made any budgetary allocations.

“There is no truth in it (closing the Indira canteen). We will only conduct an inquiry into the operations of Indira Canteen if there are some irregularities,” he told reporters here.

Yediyurappa explained that there were reports about inflated bills like 100 people were shown on records as 1,000 people having meals in the canteens. On non-release of funds by the government, Yediyurappa said, “The BBMP has to pay the funds and they will release it. Fund is not an issue. We need to curb irregularities because 100 people were shown on records as 1,000 people having meals there.”

Deputy chief minister Dr C N Ashwath Narayan, who holds portfolios of Higher Education, IT, BT and Science and Technology, too echoed the same views. He said there have been discussions in the media and public about irregularities in the functioning of Indira Canteens.

“It is only about conducting an inquiry into those reports about irregularities,” he added. Narayan wondered why the previous Congress-JDS coalition government did not release any funds though it was a project of the previous Congress government.

Meanwhile, addressing reporters in Belagavi, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who had launched the programme on 15 August 2017, flagged his concern over prospects of closure of the canteens. Hitting out at the BJP government, he said “denial of funds for the canteens reflect their lack of concern for the economically weaker sections.”

Siddaramaiah added that the government may require only Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore annually for the programme, which was not a big deal for the government. “Our state budget is of Rs 2.34 lakh crore. You can assess what concern these people (BJP) have for poor people if it is a problem in giving Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore,” Siddaramaiah said.

On Tuesday, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad had told the Corporation council that Indira Canteens were State government’s programme and the State government has to allocate budgetary provisions for it. However, the State government was not releasing funds, he said.

He had even said if the funds were not released, these canteens may be shut down. Prasad wanted the government to take a call on the future of these canteens. Taking a cue from Amma Canteen in neighbouring Tamilnadu, the then Congress government had started the Indira Canteens, named after former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi, in Bengaluru on 15 August 2018 ahead of the 2018 assembly polls.

These canteens offered breakfast at Rs five and meals twice a day at Rs 10 per plate in the afternoon and night. There are 173 Indira canteens and 18 mobile Indira canteens in the city.