Since the launch of the chain of Indira Canteens across Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in August 2017, the state-backed scheme has served as many as 30 million meals to the city's residents. The canteens offer heavily subsidized food to the public, with breakfast costing just five Indian rupees (€0.06, $0.07) while lunch and dinner each costing 10 rupees (€0.12) — a price which is as good as free for many.
The canteens, similar to soup kitchens in the West, provide simple and daily changing menu centered on local cuisine and dietary requirements.
India's urban poor remain one of the most neglected and marginalized groups in the country. It is estimated that around 65 million Indians live in urban slums, equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom.
These slums, often surrounding the neighborhoods of the rich and upper middle classes, are home to impoverished people who, in many cases, have migrated from their native villages in search of a better life. It's therefore not surprising that the main beneficiaries of the Indira Canteens program have been daily wage laborers, homeless beggars, low-income workers and even college students in Bengaluru.
More than 170 such facilities have so far been set up across Bengaluru, India's tech capital with a population of roughly 12.3 million residents, serving an average of nearly 250,000 people a day. Based on the "hub and spoke model," centralized kitchens are established in each locality where the food is cooked and then transferred to canteens operating under the kitchens' limits. Most of the canteens witness full-house crowds on weekdays, especially the ones which are located near busy locations such as colleges and hospitals. A dedicated mobile app has also been created allowing Bengaluru inhabitants to find five canteens nearest to their location. The app not only lets users to deliver feedback about a particular canteen but also provide information about the menu for the day.
The ruling state government in Karnataka, the Indira Canteens originally borrowed the idea from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, where a similar chain of government-operated outlets known as "Amma Canteens" came into existence.