Cong in Kar to stage protests against Centre for ‘denying’ rice to fulfil poll guarantee

Bengaluru: The Congress in Karnataka will stage demonstrations on Tuesday across all district headquarters against the BJP-led Central government for “denying” rice for the State’s ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme which offers 10 kg rice to each member of families living below the poverty line.

The Centre recently discontinued the sale of rice and wheat from the central pool under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) to state governments.

According to an order issued by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), “The sale of wheat and rice under the OMSS (domestic) for state governments is discontinued”. However, the sale of rice under the OMSS will be continued for northeastern states, hilly states and states facing law and order situations, natural calamities at an existing rate of Rs 3,400 per quintal, it said.

The move comes amid the slow progress of the monsoon and rising prices of rice and wheat. Rice prices have increased by up to 10 per cent in the last one year at the mandi level and by 8 per cent in the last one month, as per official data.

Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar, who is also the Congress state president, said on Monday the protest is against the Centre for “troubling the state government by denying rice”.

“The Centre has decided to trouble us so that we cannot give rice to the poor people. We are not asking them to give us rice free of cost. There has been a system from the beginning. If there was rice in the central warehouses, it was given to those demanding it,” Shivakumar told reporters here.

“We will stage a demonstration across all the district headquarters in the state tomorrow. We have asked our leaders to participate. I will also participate in the agitation in Bengaluru,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the state needs 2.28 lakh metric tonnes of rice to fulfill its “guarantee” scheme of 10 kg rice under the Anna Bhagya scheme.

“Only Chhattisgarh has offered us 1.5 lakh metric tonnes. Nowhere else rice in such a huge quantity is available, including Punjab,” Siddaramaiah told reporters.

He reiterated that on June 9 the state government had written to the Food Corporation of India about the state’s requirement of rice. On June 12, the FCI responded favourably saying it had adequate rice to meet Karnataka’s demand.

However, two days later, the FCI turned down Karnataka’s request, Siddaramaiah alleged.

“What should we call this? Isn’t it politics? They are indulging in politics using rice meant for the poor. This is a big conspiracy by the Centre to deny rice to the poor because it will come in favour of Congress,” he charged.

Five kilograms of (additional) rice to each member of the BPL families costs Rs 840 crore a month to the state government whereas annually it comes to Rs 10,092 crore, Siddaramaiah said.

“We are ready to bear the cost and give rice to the people. The Centre is not giving us rice despite having it,” the Chief Minister said.

According to him, the state does not have adequate stock of ragi or maize to supply five kg of them to each member of BPL families.

He added that at most the state can supply only two kg of ragi and maize to the beneficiaries a month for six months only.

Karnataka has approached the National Consumer Cooperative Federation, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation, and Central Warehousing Corporation to procure rice, Siddaramaiah said.

The chief minister said the state government will implement the ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme despite the “politics” played by the Centre.