Won’t stop pro-people schemes, says BSY

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.

Hours after Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah warned the government against pruning the populist Anna Bhagya, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Saturday clarified he had no plans to stop any “pro-people” scheme.

The Yediyurappa administration was looking to reduce the quantum of free rice supplied to ration cardholders under the Anna Bhagya scheme among other measures to mobilize funds required to pay additional incentives to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme. 

ALSO READ: Govt mulls cutting Anna Bhagya quota

For instance, the government can save an estimated Rs 500 crore by reducing the supply of free rice from 7 kg to 5 kg, and by stopping the supply of 1 kg dal (togari) to ration cardholders, according to a leaked note prepared by the Finance department. 

“Our government is a pro-people government. I have already signed the file to release grants to continue Anna Bhagya scheme,” Yediyurappa said in a statement. No other “pro-people” schemes will be stopped, the statement added. 

Earlier in the day, Siddaramaiah told a news conference that the Congress would hit the streets if the government tinkered with Anna Bhagya. The scheme was Siddaramaiah’s pet project, and the first one he rolled out soon after he became the chief minister in 2013. 

“The scheme was started to make Karnataka huger-free. The free rice scheme has helped prevent migration. It's a scheme that has been appreciated nationally. In fact, I wanted to increase the quantum of free rice from 7 kg to 10 kg,” Siddaramaiah told reporters. 

“But reducing it will directly be a hit on the stomachs of the poor. They will not tolerate it. Congress will hit the streets to protest. The government should immediately drop any plans it may have to scale down the scheme,” he said.  

Under Anna Bhagya, every member of a BPL household gets 7 kg of rice free every month. The scheme covers nearly four crore people. Every month, the state government procures 2.17 lakh metric tonnes of rice from the Centre at Rs 3,000 per ton. While this covers 5 kg, the state government provides an additional 2 kg to the beneficiaries that it buys from the open market. The additional 2 kg costs the government Rs 2,850 crore a year. 

Under the previous Congress-JD(S) coalition regime, then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had proposed cutting the additional 2 kg of rice supply as he was looking to mobilize resources for his crop loan waiver scheme. But Kumaraswamy was forced to drop this under pressure from his coalition partner the Congress, especially Siddaramaiah. 

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