Mysuru: January 12, 2018 saw the inauguration of 11 Indira Canteens across the city. Launched by the Congress-led Karnataka government and run by the District Administration and private food contractors, these canteens are meant to provide subsidised meals to citizens — breakfast for Rs.5 and lunch and dinner for Rs.10. And what’s heartening is that these canteens have come in for overwhelming praise from the local people for providing cheap and hygienic food.
Star of Mysore decided to go around the city to check out these canteens and their food and gauge the response of the people. Here’s what we saw:
The canteens are meant basically for the poor, daily wagers and the destitute to fill their hungry stomachs at very cheap rates. However, from the response it looks like students, middle class and even people in four-wheelers are making a beeline to the canteens to have a bite or two.
Though there are 11 canteens in city, there is a great demand at canteens located at Kumbarakoppal, CADA Office premises, Alanahalli and opposite KSRTC Suburban Bus Stand. The crowd gathers at all these places three times — for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In other places while the demand for breakfast and lunch is more, crowds thin out at dinner with many eaters preferring homes to the canteens. Hence during dinner, the quantity is reduced and instead, more quantity is supplied during lunch.
Either there was heavy rush or there were many complaints of the food getting over soon. Slowly, the rush came down as people (especially regulars) became aware of the timings of the food served. Now they are coming to the canteens at the time like they would go to any hotel. And the canteens are running smoothly.
Less salt in food
For health reasons or otherwise, many people have complained that salt is less in the food, especially breakfast. What the food contractors say is that every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner have to be cooked for 5,500 people and everything cannot be perfect when such mass cooking takes place. “We are trying our best to provide hygienic food,” says Indira Canteen food contractor M.V. Madhu.
“We ensure that food is tasty and hygienic. Officials from the Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) check the quality every day. Besides they conduct surprise checks at all the canteens. We view complaints seriously. We deliberately add less quantity of salt. We keep extra salt and pickles in all the canteens. While a few people want the food to be spicy, many others want it to be mild. A few also asked to be served less. We maintain a healthy balance,” he says.
“If the food is bad, then complaints must come from all the 11 canteens as we are serving from a centralised kitchen. However, it is not the case. In the coming days, we have plans of adding rasam, greens sambar and mixed vegetable curry,” Madhu says.
What about leftover food? “In no canteen there is leftover food. If by chance there is some food, people come and take it even after the scheduled closing time,” he adds.
Though two centralised canteens have been set up at Kumbarakoppal and Alanahalli, only the one at Kumbarakoppal is functioning now. The work on the latter is still going on and it will begin operations only after Feb.14.
State-of-the-art technology is being used to cook food. To cook rice, a big steamer is being used and 300 kgs of rice can be cooked at a time. There are two big vessels to cook 500 litres of sambar and two steam boxes to cook 250 idlis at a time.
A team of 26 workers have been employed to cook food. They get up at 2 in the morning and start preparations. Cooking breakfast is completed by 6 am and transportation to all canteens will begin by 6.30 am. Lunch preparation will commence at 9 am and will be completed by 12 noon. For dinner, they will begin cooking at 2 pm.
Stringent quality checks
“Every day we visit all canteens and check for quality. We also check the tokens issued to customers. All parameters like distribution system, UGD (Underground Drainage) connection, health of the cooks, cleaning system are checked and we have not received any major complaints till now regarding the quality of food served,” says Dr. D.G. Nagaraju, Corporation Health Officer.
All Zonal Assistant Commissioners and Development Officers visit canteens and keep an eye on them. A WhatsApp group has been created for this purpose and the MCC Commissioner has asked the group members to mandatorily upload the photographs of their visit. The MCC Commissioner too pays surprise visits, he adds.