Bangalore tackles malnutrition with 170 subsidised canteens

By on 25/06/2018
The Indira Canteens programme feeds an average of 300,000 people each day

India’s Karnataka state administration has launched a radical scheme designed to address hunger and malnutrition in the city of Bengaluru, setting up 170 canteens offering subsidised meals to the city’s 12m people.

The Indira Canteens programme, managed by the state-backed administrative body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), feeds an average of 300,000 people each day – charging just 5 rupees (US$0.07c) for breakfast and 10 rupees (US$0.14c) for lunch and dinner.

The canteens have been welcomed by many residents, particularly amongst the urban poor at whom the scheme is targeted. Widely known outside India as Bangalore, the city has seen prices rise as technology businesses and call centres boost the local economy.

A new wheel of India

The restaurants are being run on a ‘hub-and-spoke model’, with food being cooked in centralised kitchens in each ward across Bengaluru before being transferred to local canteens – including some mobile units. A standardised menu to satisfy the regional palette has been put in place.

Putting the infrastructure and processes in place for such a fast food distribution operation was challenges, recalls Manoj Rajan, special commissioner of the BBMP and chairman of the Indira Canteen Special Task Force overseeing the project. Rejecting traditional construction techniques for the buildings, the BBMP chose to erect pre-fabricated structures for the canteens in order to set them quickly.

“Bangalore has gone leaps and bounds in terms of population and industries. You have various types of people visiting Bangalore. Starting from migrant labourers to students studying in the city to taxi drivers to garment factory workers,” said Rajan, emphasising that the scheme is designed to feed anyone who would otherwise go hungry.

Feeding into politics

Though some economists have signalled such measures would pinch the exchequer, the scheme was pushed through by Karnataka’s ruling Congress party. In May’s state elections, the BJP overtook Congress to become the largest party in the Legislative Assembly – but Congress, now in alliance with the smaller JD(S) party of HD Kumaraswamy, remains in government.

The scheme – which borrowed from an initiative in neighbouring Tamil Nadu – is now being expanded to other parts of the southern Indian state. And further state governments may now pick up the initiative, helping to tackle hunger in a country where some 65m people live in urban slums.

“This is a worthy project by the government. I eat there almost every day. My monthly expenses have gone down almost one-third now,” said Manunath, a daily-wage labourer.

About Vasudevan Sridharan

This article was written by Vasudevan Sridharan. Global Government Forum works with a network of contributors who are experts in their field. If you would like to contribute a piece to Global Government Forum, please contact editorial@globalgovernmentforum.com

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