The scheme of free distribution of 20 kg rice to beneficiaries under the public distribution system (PDS) will come into force on June 1.

At present, rice is given at Re. 1 a kg to those who are entitled to receive the commodity. As per the existing norms, rice of four kg per adult and two kg per child is supplied subject to a minimum of 12 kg and a maximum of 20 kg per month per card except in the Nilgiris where the minimum will be 16 kg and the maximum 24 kg.

According to a government order issued on Tuesday, the existing norms will continue.

In the case of Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) beneficiaries, rice of 35 kg will be given free.

The government order follows the announcement of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday on her first visit to the Secretariat. Her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, had made an electoral promise regarding the provision of rice free.

Sources say that the latest decision of the government will cover 18.62 lakh AAY beneficiaries and 1.83 crore card holders who are entitled to rice. This will result in an increase of the food subsidy by Rs.500 crore.

As for the Chief Minister's another announcement on the marriage assistance schemes, an official explains that under the scheme for educated poor women, prospective beneficiaries belonging to tribal communities should have passed fifth standard, and 10{+t}{+h}standard in respect of other communities. Apart from Rs. 25,000, four gram gold for making sacred thread would be given. In respect of the scheme for graduate women or diploma holders, the assistance of Rs. 50,000 and four gram gold would be given. The limit on parental annual income for the two schemes is Rs. 24,000.

Approximately, 1.7 lakh women are expected to be covered under the two schemes. This would cost about Rs.290 crore additionally to the exchequer.

The government has issued another order, increasing the duration of maternity leave to married women government servants from 90 days to 180 days, which may be spread over from the pre-confinement rest to post-confinement recuperation at the option of the servant.