The rice subsidy scheme of the State government will be implemented from July 1, as promised by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, irrespective of whether the full quota of rice required for the scheme is available or not. In an effort to reduce the government’s burden, there is a likelihood of some restrictions being put in place resulting in a reduction in the quantum of rice required.

The scheme envisages providing 30 kg of rice to all the cardholders living below the poverty line and those covered under the Antyodaya scheme. In all, around 1.80 lakh tonnes of rice is required, and the State government has been assured by the Centre that an adequate quantum will be made available.

Sources in the State government told The Hindu that around 50,000 tonnes of rice has since been received for the implementation of the scheme, from the Central pool, although there is still a gap of around 30,000 tonnes. Mr. Siddaramaiah announced the rice scheme soon after he was sworn-in as Chief Minister on May 13 and said the implementation of the scheme would be from June 1. The State government had to, however, postpone the implementation by a month owing to a delayed response from the Centre.

The newly elected Congress government, which returned to power on its own after nine years in the May 5 Assembly polls, had promised in its election manifesto 30 kg rice a month to the below poverty line (BPL) families at Re.1 a kg, while presently rice is made available to such categories at Rs. 3 per kg. The previous government of Jagadish Shettar had announced a Re. 1 reduction in the price of rice to BPL cardholders in February last but this could not be implemented owing to the election code of conduct.

Dinesh Gundu Rao, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, told The Hindu that the State government was in touch with several States which have a surplus stock of rice and this included Chhattisgarh. “We are confident of meeting the requirements and in all likelihood will purchase the required rice from the State-run corporations. If need be, we will also opt for e-tendering through the national commodity exchange. The price of open market rice (ordinary variety) is presently Rs. 30 a kg, and through e-tendering the government is confident of purchasing rice at around Rs. 25 or Rs. 26 a kg”. The additional burden on the State Government will be around Rs. 450 crore a year.

The State government is hopeful that the Food Security Bill is passed in Parliament at the earliest since this will bring an additional quota of rice to the State for distribution under the Public Distribution System. The State is also contemplating a total review of the PDS and the BPL cards therein to prevent what has been described as large-scale misuse of the system and this is also expected to reduce the burden on the State government and simultaneously ensure that foodgrains are made available only to the eligible sections.

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