One of Karnataka’s most ambitious project, the 101 Indira Canteens, launched on 15 August, 2017, are subsidised kitchens, also called soup kitchens. They aim to serve affordable food so that no one goes hungry in the state. For easier access to these canteens, an Indira Canteen app too was launched, which can be downloaded from Google PlayStore.
The Food: What and when?
With breakfast at Rs 5 and the other meals at Rs 10, these canteens are planned to be constructed in each of the 197 wards of India’s Silicon Valley. The preparation of the three meals of the day cost Rs 57. Customers have to pay less than half of it, i.e, Rs 25. The rest is borne by the BBMP. The canteens run strictly according to their schedule, where breakfast is served between 7:30 am to 9:30 am, lunch is served between 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm and dinner is served between 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm. The menu is based on Karnataka’s ethnic cuisine and is said to be designed by leading chefs of five-star hotels, as per India Today’s report. The breakfast menu has the ever-so-homely idlis as their permanent dish and another rotating option. Similarly, for lunch the white rice and sambhar is the fixed dish with another option that changes every day.
How did the Government do it?
Rahul Gandhi at the inauguration if Indira Canteen (source)
The kitchens where all the food is prepared are spread across each assembly constituency. It is then transported to the different canteens of the constituency. Its a fine example of the hub-and-spoke model. The kitchen contract has been disbursed as tenders to different organisations. 15 were given to a hospitality centre, Cheftalk Food and Hospitality Services Pvt Ltd and 12 were given to the NGO Rewards. Per month, the operational cost of the project for the entire city is estimated to be about Rs 87 crore.
The most common complaint is regarding the quantity of food served, which people feel is meagre. But then again, considering the price…
The second and major problem is locating the functioning canteens. While they can be found on their app, but the app don’t tell you if those particular canteens are functioning. Even though the canteens are designed in a way that they can be set-up in 8 days, some of them are still under construction and hence not functioning. However, in the last two months things have moved pretty quick and hence, we can only hope that they keep improving at the same rate.
Originally, the expected number of people was 300 per canteen. Obviously, the numbers were downtrodden when the average number of people per canteen went up to 400, right from the first day. This caused food to run out before everyone was fed, leading to a trudging start, which in return brought criticism. However, things have now slowly fallen into place.
The project’s results are being carefully analysed, because a success of this operation would mean that it can be implemented in other cities as well. This project has been, however, called a populist measure by the Congress-led Government of Karnataka, ahead of the elections in the state, by many critics. However, if the project is successfully living up to it’s promise of affordable food for all, then what do we have to complain about?