Andhra Pradesh launches rice at Rs.2 per kg scheme

April 9th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by admin  


Hyderabad, April 9 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh Wednesday re-launched a scheme to provide rice at Rs.2 per kg to the economically poor families, 25 years after it was first introduced in the state. With its eyes on the next year’s elections, the Congress government announced that 18.7 million families below poverty line (BPL) having ration cards will be entitled to 20 kg of subsidized rice every month supplied through government-run fair price shops.

The scheme comes into effect when the open market price of rice (of the same quality) is about Rs.13.

The ministers launched the scheme in different district while Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy will formally launch the scheme later in the day at Jadcherla in Mahabubnagar district, about 100 km from here.

State officials said 65 million out of the total population of 82.2 million would be benefited by the scheme, which also raised fears of massive corruption in the form of diversion of rice to open market and black marketing.

On the first day, 400,000 trucks transported 350,000 tonnes of rice to 41,000 ration shops across the state. The government will set aside three days of every month for the distribution of the rice.

The scheme will cost the exchequer about Rs.20 billion annually. The government has earmarked Rs.19.8 billion for the scheme in the state budget.

The scheme was first introduced in 1983 after Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founded by popular actor N.T. Rama Rao came to power in the state.

He revived the scheme when returned to power in 1994. However, his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu, who became the chief minister a year later, scrapped the scheme.

Since the scheme has paid rich electoral dividends to Rama Rao in the past, the Rajasekhara Reddy government recently decided to revive it ahead of 2009 elections.

The ruling party hopes this scheme, coupled with free electricity to farmers, massive programmes of construction of houses for poor and irrigation projects, would help it retain the power.

Denying that the scheme was a mere poll stunt, Reddy said it was to provide food security to the poor and blunt the effect of price rise.

The government also plans to supply red gram at Rs.30 per kg and palmolein oil at Rs.60 per kg to BPL ration cardholders from May 1.

The ruling party leaders claim that it was unprecedented welfare scheme as poor families will be getting rice at Rs.2 a kilo at a time when the price in the market ranges from Rs.13 to Rs.18 a kg.

They pointed out that when NTR first introduced the scheme the price in the open market was Rs.4 to Rs.5 a kg.

Meanwhile, the government has constituted committees at the state and district level to continuously monitor the implementation of the scheme and a special cell, to be headed by a senior police officer, would be constituted to supervise the implementation of the scheme.

The main opposition TDP, which dubbed the scheme as a poll stunt, has warned the government against forcing the ration shop dealers to display Reddy’s portrait.

The party alleged that the government was insisting on such display and asking the Congress workers to oversee the scheme.

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