The launch of Anna Bhagya scheme to provide rice at Re. 1 for below poverty line (BPL) families has the State government scrambling to procure adequate quantity of foodgrains.
However, the State’s record on collecting levy rice from its private rice mills is abysmal — only 39 per cent of the target for the current year — even as the deadline ends on July 31.
The State has to collect 1.5 lakh tonnes of rice as levy by July 31 this year, according to the notification issued to all Deputy Directors. So far, only 39 per cent of the target (58,500 tonnes) has been collected.
The government has fixed price of levy rice ranging from Rs. 1,985.30 per quintal to Rs. 2,044.40 per quintal, depending on quality.
Interestingly, the BJP government had initially set the target of collecting 3 lakh tonnes of rice as levy, but it revised the order (December 15, 2012) and set the target at 50 per cent of what was first fixed.
A senior officer in the department said, on the condition of anonymity, that a pressure group consisting of powerful rice mill owners was behind the reduction in the target.
“Levy target is normally reduced in two conditions. One if monsoon is weak and production low. The second one is the lobbying by rice mill owners. It is obvious that they do not want to give good quality rice at the price fixed by the government, when the market price of the rice is very high. To make profit, they bring pressure on the government and reduce the target,” he said. However, the government is not confident of even meeting the revised target.
The picture in individual districts too is poor. For example, the revised target fixed for Hassan district, which has 130 rice mills, is 1,318 tonnes.
However, the district has collected only 101 tonnes so far.
K. Rameshwarappa, Deputy Director in Hassan, said: “We have issued notices to all rice mill owners to sell the levy rice at the earliest.”
Many rice mill owners, on the other hand, have expressed opposition to surrendering the quantity of rice allotted to them by July 31. They have told the officers that they had “no stock”. However, they had assured the administration that they would surrender levy rice, specified to them in 2012-13, in the next season along with a fresh demand for 2013-14.
The levy rice collected is negligible considering the total requirement of rice for the public distribution system. The State requires about 2.7 lakh tonnes of rice per month, which means the present levy rice target would meet no more than half a month’s needs of the State.