Indira Canteens in Bengaluru, which are already starved of funds, are now hit by a water crisis. Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) cut supply to the canteens for non-payment of bills.
BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath confirmed that water bills have not been paid. “I have received complaints regarding shortage of drinking water in Indira Canteens. As per the agreement, the contractors are responsible for providing water in Indira Canteens, and they have to pay the water bill. This is the agreement between the contractor and BWSSB,” he said.
Following disruption in water supply, the contractors are depending on water tanker and cans of purified water.
“For the last nine months, the BWSSB water supply has been disconnected, We are dependent on water tankers and water cans,” said Suvarna, manager of an Indira Canteen in Gandhinagar.
Contractors blame the previous contractors of not paying the dues on time, and also alleged that the BBMP is yet to pay their dues.
A representative of Cheftalk Food, one of the three contractors of Indira Canteens, said, “The previous contractors had not been been paying bills on time, which resulted in disconnection of water supply by the BWSSB. At the same time, the BBMP is yet to clear our bills, which are due for several months.”
Lack of allocation
After 101 canteens were initially opened in 2017, their popularity led to the expansion of the scheme to all the 198 wards in Bengaluru. At present, Indira Canteens provide breakfast for ₹5, and lunch and dinner for ₹10. Most canteens in Bengaluru are suffering due to what the opposition alleges is lack of interest by the present BJP government to fund operations of the canteens.
In 2017-18 and 2018-2019, the then government allocated ₹100 crore and ₹145 crore, respectively, but after the BJP took charge of the government in Karnataka, no funds were allocated for the scheme. Hence, the civic body allotted funds to the canteens from its own budget.
The BBMP had earmarked ₹60 crore in the 2022-23 budget for running Indira Canteens. But, contractors claim that they have not been paid for months.
Mobile Indira Canteens shut
Around 15 mobile Indira Canteens were operational in Bengaluru, according to BBMP officials.
In December 2022, the BBMP shut down all mobile Indira Canteens in Bengaluru. BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath explained, “We did not have any intention of shutting down mobile canteens. However, we are not seeing many people using them. Apart from mobile Indira Canteens, all other canteens are operational.”
A senior Palike official said that the main reason for shutting down mobile canteens was that contractors were not satisfied with the payment for keeping them operational.