Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s promise of providing foodgrain at subsidised rates is likely to suffer a setback, with the Centre refusing to entertain the state government’s demand for an additional 1.82 lakh tonnes of rice per month.
With just two days left for the Congress government to implement the scheme, State officials are desperately seeking help from the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry in the national capital.
“Despite many states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh (all have implemented the Re 1 per kg rice scheme) demanding additional foodgrain for the past two years, the Centre has not taken any decision on the issue. If that is the case, the Centre cannot allot additional rice to Karnataka alone,” senior Food Ministry officials told Deccan Herald.
Many states are expected to announce subsidised rice ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and demand more food grain from the Centre. “The Centre can’t give food grain to Karnataka alone by ignoring others,” an official said. “Preferential treatment to any state may meet with protests from others.”
Besides, the Centre has reportedly rejected Karnataka’s demand to buy the additional rice at Rs 5.65 per kg, the rate at which the Food Ministry supplies rice to the State under the BPL quota. Now, the State gets 1.48 lakh tonnes of rice every month under the public distribution system.
“If Karnataka insists on additional rice from the Centre, it has to pay Rs 19 per kg, which is the minimum support price paid by Food Corporation of India, and not Rs 5.65 per kg,” said a ministry official. Sources said the State government refused to pay Rs 19 per kg, apprehending financial burden.
Moreover, since the UPA government was planning to implement the Food Security Bill before the next Lok Sabha elections, it is not in a position to empty the granaries, sources said. “Once the food security scheme was implemented across the country, the State’s cheap rice scheme will be automatically abandoned. Till then, states like Karnataka should be able to bear the burden on its own,” they added.