Ballari’s Indira canteen shuts down due to failure to clear outstanding bills

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s flagship project, the Indira Canteen, is facing uncertainty in Ballari as five canteens in the city have been forced to shut down due to the government’s failure to clear outstanding bills. Initially introduced by the Congress government to provide affordable meals to the underprivileged, laborers, and students, the Indira Canteen project now grapples with financial challenges.

The Congress government’s vision of offering low-cost meals to the needy has taken a hit, with the government owing approximately Rs 3.38 crore to the managed agencies. Shockingly, no funds have been released for the past three years, leading to the closure of five canteens in prominent locations like Moti Circle, District Hospital, APMC, and VIMS in Ballari.

The total outstanding bill for eight canteens in the district, including those in Ballari city, stands at Rs 4.5 crore. The private agencies managing these canteens have repeatedly appealed to the government for the release of funds, but their efforts have been in vain. As a result, the agencies have been forced to close operations due to a lack of funds to cover expenses such as vegetables, gas, and staff salaries.

The closure of these canteens, where thousands of people used to have their daily meals, has sparked public outrage. Citizens are urging the swift reopening of the canteens, emphasizing the importance of these facilities for the poor, workers, and students.

The issue has raised concerns about the viability of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s dream project, with allegations that the guarantee schemes associated with the Indira Canteen have not been upheld. The closures have not only impacted the accessibility of affordable meals but have also turned these once vital community spaces into hubs for unethical activities.

Despite efforts by the management agencies to bring attention to the critical situation by writing to the district administration and the government, there has been no response. The canteens have been closed since January 20, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the vulnerable sections of society who depended on them.

In a district-wide impact, a total of eight canteens, including those in Siraguppa, Kudligi, and Sandur, have closed their doors due to outstanding bills totaling Rs 4.5 crore. The private agencies managing these canteens have made it clear that the establishments will remain closed until the government settles the overdue bills.

The Indira Canteen, once envisioned as a symbol of social welfare, is now caught in a struggle for survival, prompting public disappointment and outrage at the government’s perceived neglect of the guarantee schemes associated with the project.

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