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Punjab steps in to help Karnataka with its free rice scheme

Congress workers will be staging protests across the State on Tuesday condemning the decision of the BJP government at the Centre for denying rice to Karnataka.

 Congress government in Karnataka, which is struggling to procure rice for its ambitious Anna Bhagya scheme, on June 19 received a ray of hope after the Aam Admi Party (AAP) government in Punjab agreed in-principle to supply the requisite quantum of rice | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

The Congress government in Karnataka, which is struggling to procure rice for its ambitious Anna Bhagya scheme, on June 19 received a ray of hope after the Aam Admi Party (AAP) government in Punjab agreed in-principle to supply the requisite quantum of rice even as the State government is trying to procure rice from national-level cooperative agencies.

As the politics over rice continues, Congress workers will be staging protests across the State on Tuesday condemning the decision of the BJP government at the Centre for denying rice to Karnataka.

Under the Anna Bhagya scheme, the State plans to enhance free rice given per person in the BPL card from current 5 kg to 10 kg. The total supply of 10 kg is estimated to cost the exchequer ₹840 crore monthly and ₹10,092 crore annually, said a note from the Chief Minister’s Office. The Anna Bhagya scheme is slated for launch on July 1.

Punjab’s offer to supply rice came after the AAP-Karnataka unit took the initiative and intimated the State government that Punjab had enough quantum of rice and was also willing to supply to Karnataka in the federal spirit. AAP-Karnataka convenor Prithivi Reddy said that Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann spoke on Monday morning during which Mr. Mann conveyed that Punjab would be ready to supply rice.

“It is unfortunate that the foodgrains are rotting in godowns, and the Centre is showing step-motherly attitude towards the non-BJP ruled States. AAP has come forward to help because the scheme is aimed at mitigating the problems of the poor,” he told The Hindu.

While the Karnataka government has announced July 1 as the launch date for Anna Bhagya, doubts still remain about its launch after the Food Corporation of India (FCI) refused to provide 2.28 lakh tonnes required to launch the scheme after initially agreeing to supply the same. Since then, the State has been scouting for rice in other States. While Telangana and Andhra Pradesh expressed inability to supply, Chhattisgarh government expressed willingness to supply 1.5 lakh tonnes. Karnataka is looking to purchase rice at ₹34 a kg along with a transport cost of ₹2.6 per kg, which is the cost that it would incur if it had bought rice from FCI.

Cooperative agencies

Meanwhile, reiterating that the Centre was indulging in politics over supply of rice, Mr. Siddaramaiah on Monday told presspersons that efforts are on to get the price list from National Co-operative Consumers Federation, National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation and the central pool to procure rice for the pro-poor scheme. “We will take details of the quantum of rice that these agencies can supply. We will try to procure rice through the tender also.”

He said that the cost and other modalities are being worked out with Punjab for supply of rice, and the Chief Secretary is in touch with Punjab officials.

When his response was sought on whether the State had time to procure rice to ensure the launch on July 1, he said: “The State government is making sincere effort to implement the scheme on July 1. The Centre has the stock, and it has to make up its mind to supply to us. Irrespective of politics over supply, we will implement Anna Bhagya.”

Mr. Siddaramaiah also said that if the State decides to provide 2 kg of either ragi or jowar, the stock in the State will last for six months. “Even then, the State government has to supply 3 kg of rice in addition to 5 kg being supplied now.”

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/punjab-offers-to-supply-rice-to-karnataka/article66986510.ece QR Code

Published Date: June 20, 2023

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