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Orphaned Indira Canteens may soon starve to death in Bengaluru

BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government not keen on funding the project. HD Kumaraswamy-led JD(S), too, had tightened purse strings.

, ET Bureau|
Aug 22, 2019, 11.27 AM IST
The budgetary support for Indira Canteens has been falling.
BENGALURU: Indira Canteens could starve to death. The BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government is reluctant to fund the project that former chief minister Siddaramaiah had started as a welfare scheme for the urban poor.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) operates and maintains the network of affordable eateries in Bengaluru with funds from the state government. While funding for the project shrank in the 2019 Budget itself under the JD(S)-Congress coalition, it now appears the BJP government that took over on July 23 is not keen on continuing the project.

The chief secretary recently intervened to propose that the state government and the BBMP should share the expense equally. “The proposal is now before the finance department. The fate of Indira Canteens, however, depends on the new government,” an official of the urban development department (UDD) said without wanting to be named.

When Siddaramaiah inaugurated Indira Canteens in 2017, before the 2018 general elections, he had released Rs 100 crore for the project. The plan was to open a canteen in each of the 198 wards in the city. The idea was to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at nominal rates.

To an extent, the project lost sheen after the HD Kumaraswamy-led JD(S)- Congress coalition government came to power. Although Kumaraswamy had sanctioned ?145 crore for Indira Canteens in the 2018 Budget, only Rs 115 crore was released, says the BBMP. The civic body apparently struggled to raise Rs 30 crore from its resources.

In his next budget in February 2019, Kumaraswamy did not allocate any funds saying the government was struggling to finance its crop loan-waiver scheme. The responsibility of running the canteens fell on the BBMP.

A senior official in the BBMP’s finance section said the civic body cannot afford to spend on the project from its pocket. “Indira Canteens is a state government scheme and not the BBMP’s. The BBMP is only authorised to operate the canteens. It is unfair on the part of the state government to pass on the financial responsibility to the BBMP,” the officer said.

Despite the difficulties, officials indicated the BBMP will continue the project since it is popular and cannot be stopped unilaterally. “We need to find a solution. We are only hoping the government will bear the cost,” the officer said, adding the municipal body will discuss it with the Bengaluru development minister once he takes charge.

BBMP commissioner N Manjunath Prasad was unavailable for comment.

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