The proposal to hand over Indira Canteens to ISKCON has again raised the debate on using onion and garlic in food, since food prepared by the organisation does not use these ingredients.
Responding to a question on this issue, Tulasi Maddineni, Special Commissioner (Finance), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), said the quality and nutrition of the food would not be compromised, but added that the civic body has not put any conditions on ISKCON to use onions and garlic.
It can be recalled that ISKCON was one of the vendors who participated in the bid in 2016-17 when Indira Canteens were started, but were kept out of the process since they do not use onions and garlic in preparations.
ISKCON has been providing morning meals to 18,000-odd pourakarmikas, some of whom have been complaining about “bland” food. “I find food supplied by ISKCON very bland since it does not use onions or garlic. Many of us have stopped eating that food,” said Munirathna, a pourakarmika from RR Nagar zone.
Vinay Sreenivasa, of Bahutva Karnataka, a coalition of progressive organisations, said handing over Indira Canteens to ISKCON amounts to “imposing a food culture” followed by a small minority on a wide majority in the city. “The decision betrays the mindset of the civic body, where providing food at the canteens is seen as an act of charity and not as a right of the citizens,” he said.
Nutrition expert Sylvia Karpagam said research by Central Food Technological Research Institute shows onions and garlic to be key in bio-accessibility of zinc and iron, deficiencies of which are rampant among the poor according to multiple National Family Health Surveys. “There is no reason why the poor of the city have to be denied onions and garlic because of an ideological construct of an institution. Moreover, we have been demanding that the government provide eggs and other nutritious foods at the canteens,” she said.
When contacted, a source in ISKCON said that the organisation will respond to any issue related to the matter only after an MoU is signed.