Karnataka doles out rice at Re.1 a kg for poor

Bangalore, July 10 (IANS) The ruling Congress government in Karnataka Wednesday began distributing 30 kg of rice at Re.1 a kg for the below poverty line (BPL) families in the state, fulfilling one of its promises made in the party manifesto on poll eve.

Launching the ambitious scheme which was put off twice since June, Chief Minister Siddaramiah distributed three rice bags of 30 kg each to three beneficiaries, including two women, at a public function at Freedom Park in the city centre, while his cabinet colleagues doled out an equal quantity to other beneficiaries in 30 districts.

Christened 'Anna Bhagya Yojane', the flagship rice scheme is intended to benefit a whopping 10 million (1 crore) families, including 87 lakh card holders under BPL category and 11 lakh card holders under the centrally-sponsored Antyodaya Anna Yojane (AAY) across the state.

"The scheme is aimed at eliminating hunger and malnutrition to ensure social justice. As promised to the people during the recent (May 5) state legislative assembly election, we are committed to serve the needy as the state has the highest number of poor people in southern India," Siddaramaiah said.

The subsidised scheme, which will cost the exchequer a whopping Rs.4,200 crore every year, requires 2.78 lakh tonnes of rice every month for supplying through the state-run fair price shops under the public distribution system (PDS).

Though the state will get 1.77 lakh tonnes of rice from the central government for the scheme, the state government will have to buy 1.01 lakh tonnes of grain from open market and other sources to make up the shortfall.

To kick-start the scheme, which Siddaramaiah announced hours after taking oath May 13, the state government has bought about 28,000 tonnes of rice from Chhattisgarh at Rs.22.90 per kg for this month, as the state food and civil supplies department has 2.87 lakh tonnes of buffer stock in its warehouses.

"We will procure our quota of rice from the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange's (NCDX) online trading system from July 24 to ensure there is no shortage for distribution from August," a department official told IANS at the function.

The state government, however, is betting on the central government to not only make up the shortfall from the national food security scheme once its ordinance becomes an act, but also reducing the subsidy burden as it will be securing rice at Rs.3 per kg.

"Under the national food security scheme, the state is entitled to get foodgrains for 9.3 million BPL families at Rs.3 per kg per month," the official pointed out.

"Around 1.2 million additional BPL families have applied for ration cards to avail rice under the scheme. The department is verifying the status of present cardholders to weed out the bogus ones, which is estimated to be around five percent," the chief minister said.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao said the department would install bio-metric machines at ration shops and warehouses to maintain an account of stocks, quantity distributed and check pilferage of food grain meant for PDS.

Under the scheme, one-member BPL families will get 10 kg rice per month at Re.1 per kg, two-member families 20 kg and three or more members of families 30 kg.

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