Thousands queue up at Indira Canteens, many return empty-handed

Bengaluru: Thousands of persons queued up on Thursday to get subsidised food at Indira Canteens run here by the Karnataka government, though teething troubles forced many to return disappointed due to there being not enough food to meet the demand.

A day after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi inaugurated one canteen in Jayanagar, a total of 101 such outlets opened their doors on Thursday for breakfast. The canteens served free dinner to all on Wednesday, the inaugural day.

Breakfast is priced at Rs 5 and lunch and dinner at Rs 10. Each of the canteens is meant to serve about 500 people for each meal.

Based on the spoke-hub model, there will be one canteen in each of the 198 civic wards in the state capital, with one kitchen in each of the 27 assembly constituencies in Bengaluru to supply food to these outlets.

But currently, only six kitchens are operating to serve the 101 canteens, leading to delays and shortages of food, leaving many hopefuls hungry and griping.

M. Seshamma, 51, said the canteen was a good option to save on the Rs 1,000 she makes each month by doing laundry at a house.

“It was very hard to even get into the canteen given the number of people there. And the meals were finished in no time. I hope there will be sufficient food for all,” she said, as she headed out to look for another place for lunch.

Auto-rickshaw driver Subhash Chandra, 32, said the breakfast he got at the canteen was “satisfactory” and hence chose to return to the Shantala Nagar canteen for lunch, but had to wait for over two hours for the food to arrive.

“Upma served for breakfast was quite tasty and in good quantity. I decided to try out lunch as well, but had to wait for long,” he said.

With the prices being easy on many people’s pockets, the canteens caught everyone’s attention, Chandra said.

“Many of us have short lunch breaks, so it becomes tough if we have to wait for too long. In the morning, the food finished too quickly and many had to return empty-handed.”

Inspecting one of the canteens, Congress MLA N.A. Haris said: “Once all the kitchens start functioning, running of the canteens will be much smoother.”

At many city locations, the canteens witnessed more people than their maximum capacity, said Executive Engineer Nandish, the Nodal Officer for Indira Canteens.

“At some canteens, about 1,500 persons waited for meals even though our canteen infrastructure is designed only to cater to 500. Being the first day, there were a few difficulties in getting the food delivered to all the canteens from the kitchens,” Nandish told IANS.

Served from 7.30 a.m. till around 9.30 a.m., breakfast menu includes idli, puliyogare (tamarind rice), upma, pongal, vangibath (brinjal rice) and chitranna (lemon rice). At most of the outlets, only one of the menu options is served.

A common lunch consisting of rice, vegetable sambar and curd rice is served between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m., while dinner includes either one of the rice items like tamarind rice, vangibath, lemon rice served along with curd rice.

“Setting up the remaining canteens is underway and all 198 will come up soon,” Nandish said.

Using pre-cast technology, each of the canteens can be built in just eight days. The catering contract has been signed with Cheftalk Food and Hospitality Services.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had provided Rs 100 crore in the state Budget in the 2017-18 fiscal to run the canteens in all 198 civic wards on the lines of the popular ‘Amma Unavagam’ in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, started by the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, late J. Jayalalithaa.

But due to delays in procuring land for the canteens, 101 have been launched in the initial phase. More will be opened in the remaining 97 wards from October 2 to mark the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.