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BENGALURU: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) will, in all probability, be the sole supplier of food for the newly proposed 198 Namma Canteens in Bengaluru city. Food from ISKCON kitchen fills thousands of tummies every day at schools across the state under the midday meal scheme.

Sources in the government said the idea to rope in ISKCON came from the food and civil supplies department earlier last year. The idea of Namma Canteens was floated by C.M.Ibrahim, state planning board deputy chairman, three years ago. Ibrahim had suggested Aiyya Canteens, on the lines of Tamil Nadu's much-lauded Amma Canteens. However, due to cost considerations, the idea was shelved in 2016.

The Karnataka government had then hit upon the idea of targeting the migrant population and the homeless in urban areas by having night-food shelters or night wheels. However, with assembly elections approaching, the CM decided to revive the TN canteen model to supply food for all. According to the budget announcement, these canteens will offer breakfast at Rs 5 and lunch at Rs 10. The government is seeking to execute the project with a centralized kitchen so as to ensure quality food and consistent taste.

"ISKCON appeared to be the best possible option as it has the capacity to execute such bulk orders," said a senior government official. The government is believed to have had two rounds of talks with ISKCON for the project, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is likely to be inked soon. The project is estimated to cost Rs 100 crore.

According to sources in the urban development department (UDD), while ISKCON will be charging a higher rate for each plate of breakfast and lunch, the government will subsidize the same at the promised rates.

The food and civil supplies department, which was to be the nodal agency, has now decided to hand over the scheme's execution to the BBMP. The Palike has to identify the locations for the canteens in the 198 wards. These will effectively work as distribution centres for food coming from ISKCON.

A spokesperson for ISKCON confirmed that they were in talks with the government for the project and that negotiations are on. "We have the capacity to manage both midday meals and Namma Canteens. The procurement process will be separate for both the projects and ISKCON is ready to supply bulk orders for Namma Canteens," the spokesperson said.

Source: The Times of India         Dated: March 17, 2017