The BJP’s promise in its manifesto that it will set up ‘Atal Aahara Kendra’ in each ward of every municipal corporation in Karnataka has put a question mark over the fate of the ‘Indira Canteens’, which the then Siddaramaiah government launched in August 2017. The BJP national president J P Nadda released on Monday the ‘Praja Pranalike’ (Citizens’ Manifesto) in the run-up to the May 10 Assembly elections.
”We will set up an ‘Atal Aahara Kendra’ in every ward of every municipal corporation in the state to provide affordable, quality and healthy food across the state with special focus for delivery boys, cab, auto drivers and unorganised workers,” the party said in its manifesto. ”I don’t know about the Indira Canteen ‘Yojana’ but I know that this (Atal Aahara Kendra) is going to take care of the common man,” Nadda said in response to a question on the fate of Indira Canteens.
Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, ”It is ridiculous that the BJP government is promising to open ‘Atal Aahara Kendra’ after vindictively shutting down 600 Indira Canteens set up by the Congress across the state during its tenure.”
In Bengaluru, the Indira Canteens were set up by the then Congress government in about 200 places with an investment of Rs 94 crore, according to Congress leaders. The Congress had earlier repeatedly accused the current BJP government of shutting down Indira Canteens or changing the name and making it redundant.
”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 had tweeted on August 28, 2019.
The Congress stalwart made his fear public a month after BJP’s B S Yediyurappa became the Chief Minister for a fourth time. Yediyurappa had then clarified that there were no plans to shut or rename the Indira Canteens. The Congress government launched the Indira Canteen scheme in August 2017 on the lines of ‘Amma Canteen’ in Tamil Nadu. ”The government had earmarked Rs 94 crore for the Indira Canteen project. We spent Rs 30 lakh on constructing each canteen in each ward of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and Rs 60 lakh on each kitchen,” a senior government officer, who was part of the project, told PTI.
The annual recurring cost is about Rs 100 crore, which involves Rs 27 a day on each person having meals in the Indira Canteen, he explained. He said every day about three lakh people avail the food services at these Indira Canteens across Bengaluru. According to him, the concept of ‘Atal Aahara Kendra’ is same as the Indira Canteens, where people get breakfast for Rs five and meals twice a day each costing Rs 10.