The approaching Karnataka elections, perhaps, overpowered the will of BBMP to ensure that the downtrodden too got quality food at the Indira canteens. Otherwise, why would a government body 'forget' to apply for food license from FSSAI? As strange as it may sound, but that is the truth. 

According to the food safety regulations, any food outlet or restaurant in Bengaluru has to have shops and establishment license from the labour department and then trade license from the BBMP. The final stage includes registration with the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India). Apart from this, corrupt cops and officials have to be bribed too. 

Incidentally, none of the 198 canteens opened in various areas of Bengaluru have a license. In its haste to impress the people of the city, BBMP apparently has foregone the most important stages of licensing the outlets. However, the most ironic part of the deal is, even the top government  officials aren't aware that a license is required for the same. Some even go to the extent of saying that licenses are not required for projects that are directly under the government.

Take the case of BBMP Executive Engineer Nandish JR, who said that government establishments do not need a license in the first place. Speaking to the Bangalore Mirror, he further added, "Only private hotels require registration and licence. The government issues them these certificates to ensure that the food they serve to the public is safe. But Indira Canteen is the government’s project so there will be no such problems."

It is to be noted that he is also the nodal officer in charge of all Indira Canteens. 

Now, consider this. Section 31 (1) of the Food Safety Act says that nobody is entitled to commence a food business without a licence from FSSAI. It is to be noted that the regulation makes no exception for government bodies.  Also, consider this. According to the Section 31 (7) of the Food Safety Act, if food is manufactured at one spot and transported to other outlets, both the transit points need a license. Incidentally, all the 101 outlets of Indira canteen in the city are being served by a common kitchen located in Whitefield. 

The contractors who oversee the food and the services at the outlets are Mumbai-based ChefTalk and New Delhi-based NGO Rewards. Both the organisations believe that licenses are mandatory and that they have asked the BBMP to apply for it. Meanwhile,  N Manjunath Prasad, Commissioner BBMP, said, "Our caterers have licence and approval. For Indira canteens, we will submit our application this week and we will hopefully get it in 60 days."

It is to be noted that unless the canteens are licensed, no food checks can be conducted in the outlets, jeopardising their quality. Thus, nullifying the sole purpose of providing nutritious food to the poor and the downtrodden. The government has set aside Rs 88 crore for 198 Indira Canteens, one in each ward in Bengaluru. These serve breakfast for Rs 5 and lunch and dinner for Rs 10 each.