Rice at Re 1 in Andhra

Hyderabad, Jan. 16: Rice politics is back in Andhra Pradesh, packaged in a new attractive offer of Re 1 a kilo. That too only the locally produced variety.

Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy today launched the Mana Biyyam (our rice) scheme for 2.26 crore below-poverty-line (BPL) families, which would get 25kg each per month.

The scheme, launched in five districts, entails an expenditure of Rs 9,600 crore a year.

In 1982, former chief minister K. Vijaybhaskar Reddy had offered rice at Rs 1.50 a kilo in a bid to better N.T. Rama Rao's poll promise of rice at Rs 2 a kilo. But voters had given NTR's Telugu Desam 202 of the 294 seats in the 1983 January polls.

The scheme Kiran Reddy announced today had a regional flavour with the promise of "AP rice for AP residents".

The Congress chief minister said through this scheme, people would be able to get locally produced quality rice instead of the grain produced in Punjab or Haryana which is distributed by the Food Corporation of India and is not to the liking of Andhra residents.

Reddy had earlier revived the Arogyasree scheme of free health for all.

A senior Congress leader said Reddy was leaving no stone unturned to ensure that he remained at the helm till 2014 and beyond, if the party had the mandate, amid strong rumours that his days were numbered. "The high command would prefer to have a leader from Telangana as chief minister," the party source said.

NTR had introduced his Rs 2-a-kilo rice scheme in 1983, benefiting nearly 40 lakh BPL families. The subsidy burden then was Rs 175 crore.

When he was chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu pegged the subsidy at Rs 5 after the burden shot up to nearly Rs 1,200 crore in 2001.

When the Congress's Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy returned to power in 2004, he resumed the Rs 2-per-kilo scheme but reduced the monthly quota from 25kg to 20kg.

According to civil supplies minister D. Sridhar Babu, the subsidy burden would work out to Rs 9,600 crore a year in addition to the Rs 2,600 crore at present. "The Centre is contributing only Rs 400 crore of the additional burden," he said.

Telugu Desam chief Naidu has promised 25kg of rice free of cost to all BPL families if his party is voted to power in the next elections.

"If the TDP promise has to be fulfilled, it would entail a burden of Rs 12,000 crore," said a Congress leader.

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