Contractors of Indira Canteens are finding it difficult to operate them owing to the failure of the government to pay their bills for months on end.
The 198 Indira Canteens, including mobile canteens, which enjoy the patronage of thousands of citizens, are operated by Chef Talk Food and Hospitality Services Pvt. Ltd., Rewards and Adamya Chetana.
Udaykumar of Rewards told The Hindu that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has not cleared their bills for more than seven months. He used to operate 88 canteens, but is now managing 50, as per the new tenders, which, sources in the civic body said, came into effect on August 1.
As per the new tender, the subsidy from the government has come down by nearly ₹7. The government subsidy (for three meals per day) was earlier ₹37, but is now ₹30.3 (₹9.8 for breakfast and ₹10.25 each for lunch and dinner), he said. Citizens pay ₹25 for three meals a day (₹5 for breakfast, and ₹10 each for lunch and dinner).
“Though the cost of essential commodities has increased, the subsidy has been reduced,” he said. That apart, water and power connections to the canteens are under the commercial category. “We have submitted representations to the BBMP, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and Bengaluru Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) seeking change in category to domestic, to no avail,” he added.
A representative of Adamya Chetana, which started operating 44 canteens under the new tender, admitted that there were some issues with water and power connections. “We have recently taken over. There many unresolved issues pertaining to unpaid power and water charges. As a result, water supply to a few canteens has been suspended,” he said.
Mr. Udaykumar said that with reduction in subsidy and uncleared bills, power and water bills have not been paid. Both contractors said that they were now depending on water tankers to meet their needs on a daily basis.
Admitting to a delay in clearing bills of contractors of Indira Canteens, BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said the State government had not released money for maintenance of the canteens. “This has affected payment to contractors. We have written several times to the government about the same,” he said.
Chapatis not on the menu yet
There were proposals to include ragi mudde and chapati in the menu of Indira Canteens. However, it will be some time before they find a place on the menu.
A representative of Adamya Chetana said that they were initially prepared to introduce chapatis. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, they put off their decision since chapatis have to be rolled by hand.
“In our kitchen in Jodhpur, a machine is used to make flat breads. They are thicker and tougher, and are called ‘roti’. Those will not suit the south Indian palate,” the representative added.
Udaykumar from Rewards, however, had other reasons. He said non-payment of pending bills and increase in cost of essential commodities were the main reasons for not including ragi mudde and chapati in the menu.