BENGALURU: Subsidised food served in the state-run Indira canteens across this tech city would not be cheaper from April, as the city civic body is set to increase its price 50-100 per cent to meet the rising cost of operating them, a civic official said on Saturday.
"A proposal has been submitted to the state government for approval to increase the price of breakfast 100 per cent, and meals for lunch and dinner 50 per cent at Indira canteens operated by us through hired caterers to reduce losses," Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) official L. Suresh told IANS here.
Launched by the previous Congress government with much fanfare in August 2017 in all the 198 civic wards across the city, the canteens serve 2-3 dishes for breakfast at Rs 5 per plate and 2-3 varieties for lunch and dinner for Rs 10 per plate.
If the 7-month-old BJP government approves the hike, breakfast dishes will be priced Rs 10 per plate and lunch/dinner items Rs 15 per plate.
To minimise the impact of hike, the civic body will increase the quantity of food served in breakfast, lunch and dinner 50 grammes per plate.
Idli, pongal and upma are served for breakfast, while vegetable rice, sambar rice and curd rice are served for lunch and dinner.
"Though the previous two governments allocated Rs 100 crore to subsidise their flagship scheme in the state budget since fiscal 2017-18, their increasing operational and maintenance costs in Bengaluru and other cities across the state have made them unsustainable," noted Suresh.
With the new government facing revenue shortfall due to dip in tax collections and burdened with other subsidised schemes, budgetary support to the Indira canteen is unlikely to increase from Rs 100 crore per annum for the ensuing fiscal year (2020-21).
"The proposed hike in prices is to offset reduction in budgetary support to the scheme and meet the rising cost of operating them," asserted Suresh.
In the 198 wards, 177 canteens are located in civic parks, grounds and other properties, while 21 are run as mobile canteens on wheels due to lack of space for constructing them in their wards.
"The canteens are quite popular as they are patronised by the common man, migrants, labourers, drivers, security guards, youth, bachelors, students, working women and senior citizens," asserted Suresh.
Named after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and set up on the lines of 'Amma canteens' in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu, similar outlets were opened in 2018 in a dozen cities across the southern state to provide food at subsidized rate for the common man.
Although then ruling Congress hoped to reap electoral benefits from Indira canteens in the May 2018 Assembly elections in view of their popularity, it was defeated at the hustings due to a fractured verdict.
The system operates on a hub-and-spoke model, with food items prepared at a common kitchen in each assembly segment for all the canteens in it. Caterers are awarded the contract through tender bids every year for the 28 kitchens across the city, which has 28 assembly constituencies.