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Centre says stoppage of rice and wheat supply to States is aimed at controlling inflation

The move is likely to hit some States, particularly Karnataka, which has promised free rice to its citizens under the ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme

Under the scheme, the Karnataka Government has promised to provide 10 kg of food grains/rice to every member of a Below Poverty Line (BPL) household and Antyodaya card holders every month.  | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

Amid a political slugfest over the discontinuation of the sale of rice and wheat from the Central pool to State governments, the Government on Thursday said the decision was not “deliberate” and was only aimed at controlling retail inflation in food grains.

The Centre, in a notification sent to the States on June 13, stopped the sale of rice and wheat from the Central pool under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) to State governments. The move is likely to hit some States, particularly Karnataka, which has promised free rice to its citizens under the ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme.

Under the scheme, the Karnataka Government has promised to provide 10 kg of food grains/rice to every member of a Below Poverty Line (BPL) household and Antyodaya card holders every month. With the Centre’s decision, it now remains to be seen if the State will be able to implement the scheme from July 1 as decided.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and other leaders of the Congress party have hit out at the Centre, accusing it of conspiring to “fail” the State government’s poll guarantee by ensuring the State did not receive the required amount of rice to implement the scheme.

Moreover, in the upcoming Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, many populist schemes such as these may be announced.

“Any State, when they announce any scheme, they do not consult us. They did not consult whether we can supply the food grains or not,” Food Corporation of India (FCI) Chairperson and Managing Director Ashok Kumar Meena said, when asked about the Karnataka Chief Minister’s allegations.

“The Government of India doesn’t decide for States,” he said, adding that OMSS operations are carried out in a manner that retail prices are controlled.

Mr. Meena said that from January 1, the Central government had decided to provide free food grains to 80 crore people under the new integrated National Food Security Scheme. Other than this, it had the mandate to take steps to ensure that the prices of essential commodities remained in control for the remaining 60 crore people.

The FCI Chairperson also said that current FCI stocks of wheat and rice were 308.84 lakh MT and 265.08 lakh MT, respectively. Both stocks were surplus.

A senior official in the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry said that the decision to stop providing rice and grain to States under OMSS was neither deliberate not sudden. “The decision was not taken yesterday. An inter-Ministerial committee met on June 8. Then it [the decision] went to the Committee of Ministers, and then the notice was issued on June 13,” the official said.  

Questioned on the Karnataka Chief Minister’s charge that the FCI had agreed to supply 2.22 lakh million tonnes (MT) of grain to his State, the senior official said that the FCI’s regional officers did not have any information on June 12 and thus had confirmed supply to the State government. It was only on June 13, after the notification was received, that the field officers were informed.

He said that the FCI has commenced the registration process for e-auction. The auction will start from June 28 for wheat and from July 5 for rice.

These were instruments to control prices, the official said. Under the OMSS, the minimum quantity allowed per buyer has been fixed at 10 MT. The maximum quantity allowed per buyer is 100 MTs per e-auction for wheat and rice, to ensure wider reach and participation of small and marginal buyers. Wheat and rice would be offered from nearly 500 depots of the FCI across the country through the e-auction.

The Congress party alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was taking out his frustration at the loss in the Karnataka Assembly polls on the people.

“By this move, the government is hurting the most marginalized sections of society,” Congress general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh tweeted.

“The question is — can the PM and the BJP be so blinded by their defeat that they deny food grain to the poor? Kannadigas demand answers,” Randeep Singh Surjewala, the party general secretary in-charge for Karnataka, said.

“Let it be remembered that despite road blocks put up by the BJP, the Congress will implement ‘Anna Bhagya’ but Kannadigas will not pardon the State BJP leadership or Modi government for its enmity towards the SCs (Scheduled Castes), STs (Scheduled Tribes), OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and the poor,” Mr. Surjewala said.

Mr. Siddaramaiah has also said his government was making all efforts to procure rice from other sources and producing States, aimed at supplying it to the needy on time, as promised.

Sources in the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry said that Karnataka can look at different options to implement the scheme, including procurements, replacing rice with other grains like millets, and buying rice from the open market.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-says-stoppage-of-rice-and-wheat-supply-to-states-is-aimed-at-controlling-inflation/article66973174.ece QR Code

Published Date: June 16, 2023

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