Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah says Centre denying rice as ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme hits roadblock

Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

The Congress’ key initiative, the Anna Bhagya scheme, has encountered a setback as the central government has effectively halted the sale of wheat and rice to state governments through the Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic) (OMSSD). This move restricts the Food Corporation of India (FCI) from selling any grains, casting a shadow over the successful implementation of the program.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah criticized the recent decision on Wednesday, denouncing it as an “anti-poor, political move” and a “conspiracy” orchestrated by the BJP to obstruct the provision of rice for the Congress’ Anna Bhagya scheme. This development poses challenges for the state government, potentially hampering the planned launch of Anna Bhagya in July.

Currently, individuals holding Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards are entitled to receive 5 kg of rice under the National Food Securities Act (NFSA), with the allocation of rice being provided by the central government. In addition to this, the Congress party had pledged to provide an additional 5 kg of rice from the state government’s resources.

To ensure the provision of 10 kg of rice per person to all Priority Households (PHH), the state has a requirement of approximately 4.45 lakh tonnes of rice. Out of this total, 2.17 lakh tonnes are currently met through the National Food Securities Act (NFSA). The remaining quantity needs to be procured from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) by the state government.

FCI had responded to the state’s request for 2.28 lakh tonnes a month at Rs 34 a kg.

The transport cost would be Rs 2.60 a kg. This would cost the government Rs 840 crore.

Accusing the Union government of undermining the Congress’ welfare scheme, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed his astonishment at the sudden decision made on June 13. The Union government had written to the Food Corporation of India (FCI), instructing them to halt the Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic) (OMSSD) to state governments. Siddaramaiah claimed that this action clearly demonstrated the Centre’s efforts to obstruct the Congress’ initiative. He further stated that FCI officials in Bengaluru had previously assured them of the availability of an additional 7 lakh tonnes of rice, making this turn of events even more surprising and concerning.

According to officials from the Union ministry, the decision to halt rice sales to state governments was made to ensure an adequate stock of rice in case the monsoon fails and to stabilize market prices by releasing it as needed. In response to this development, the Karnataka state government has reached out to Chhattisgarh and Telangana for potential rice procurement.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister K H Muniyappa is scheduled to meet Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Thursday, as announced by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. However, Karnataka is still awaiting a positive response from Chhattisgarh. The state government is also planning to approach the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation as an alternative source for rice procurement. Despite the obstacles posed by the BJP, Siddaramaiah affirmed the determination to ensure the implementation of their welfare schemes.

Sources in the Food and Civil Supplies Department have highlighted that purchasing rice from other states will lead to additional expenses, including high transportation costs.