Anna Bhagya scheme | Karnataka BPL families will get cash instead of free rice promised

With FCI refusing to sell rice, the State has not been able to procure enough grains in time for the July 1 launch of Anna Bhagya Yojana, a free rice scheme promised in the Congress poll manifesto

June 28, 2023 03:46 pm | Updated 11:15 pm IST

The Anna Bhagya scheme entails providing 5 kg rice per person over the 5 kg given under the National Food Security Act. File 

The Anna Bhagya scheme entails providing 5 kg rice per person over the 5 kg given under the National Food Security Act. File  | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Unable to procure enough rice in the market at a reasonable cost in time to meet the needs of its new Anna Bhagya scheme, the Karnataka Government on Wednesday decided to temporarily give ₹170 per person per month from July 1 in lieu of the promised five kg of free rice. The launch of the scheme is slated for July 1.

In its poll manifesto, the Congress had promised to distribute 5 kg of free rice to each member of families holding BPL (below poverty line) and Antyodaya cards, over and above the 5 kg given under the National Food Security Act. An estimated 2.29 lakh metric tonnes of rice is needed every month to supply 5 kg free to the 4.42 crore family members of the 1.19 crore BPL and Antyodaya cardholders in Karnataka, which the Food Corporation of India (FCI) refused to sell to the State.

The Karnataka Cabinet finally decided to provide cash in lieu of rice after holding elaborate discussions on the implementation of the scheme, cost and availability.

‘Temporary measure’

“Several alternatives were discussed and eventually the government decided to give ₹34 per kg, the cost that the government would have incurred if rice had been bought from the Food Corporation of India (FCI). This is a temporary measure till the State builds enough stock of rice to supply under the scheme,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister H.K. Patil told journalists after the Cabinet meeting. “The Centre has not cooperated with the State to implement the scheme. That is why cash is being given temporarily,” he explained.

Incidentally, the principal Opposition BJP had demanded a transfer of cash if the government failed to get enough rice to launch the scheme on time and had threatened to start an agitation if the government failed to implement the scheme.

‘Playing politics’

“‘The BJP in the State should have talked to the Centre about giving rice for the poor. I met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and requested them to supply rice through FCI but they refused,” said Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. “NCCF, NAFED, Kendriya Bhandara, these three organisations have increased the price prescribed for the supply of rice. NCCF suggested ₹32.94, while we asked for ₹32.24. Now tenders are being called transparently to buy rice in the open market,” he added.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister K.H. Muniyappa said that the procurement would be slightly delayed due to the tender process, adding that the cost of DBT was likely to be between ₹750 crore and ₹800 crore a month.

Accusing the Centre of “playing politics”, he said that while it was denying the States the chance to participate in FCI’s open market sale, it had opened its own tender to sell 15 lakh metric tonnes of rice at the rate of ₹31 per kg. “We were ready to pay ₹34 per kg. The Centre needs 135 lakh metric tonnes for its national supply to PDS (public distribution system) whereas it has stock of 262 lakh metric tonnes,” Mr. Muniyappa said. He also pointed out that the State had made efforts to procure rice from other States before arriving at the decision to transfer cash instead for now.

The cash amount will be given through direct benefit transfer (DBT), as 95% of beneficiaries have already linked their card details to their bank accounts. “Very few people have yet to link their card details with bank accounts. The money will be transferred to the head of the family as given in the card.” The families can use the money to purchase rice, ragi, jowar or any other food items, he added.

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