Centre refuses to supply rice for Karnataka state scheme, cites 'low stock'

Karnataka food minister K.H. Muniyappa said Union minister Piyush Goyal's avoidance is politically motivated since the Centre has excess stock, the state is ready to pay

Piyush Goyal, Union food minister and senior BJP leader at a press conference on 20 June 2023 in New Delhi, India (photo: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Piyush Goyal, Union food minister and senior BJP leader at a press conference on 20 June 2023 in New Delhi, India (photo: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)


Food minister for Karnataka K.H. Muniyappa told the press on Friday, 23 June, that Union minister Piyush Goyal had turned down the Karnataka government's request for rice to supplied for free distribution by the state government, citing a lack of stocks.

The distribution would see the implementation of the Indian National Congress's pre-poll campaign promise in the state.

However, after meeting the Union food minister, Muniyappa came away empty-handed, as his counterpart at the Centre claimed he was "unable to give" this much away to the state.

Muniyappa expressed incredulity, saying, "We are ready to pay the price. But the minister has said there is no stock." He added that compared to the required buffer stock of 135 lakh tonnes of rice, the central pool currently has 262 lakh tonnes.

"We requested [10 kg of free rice] for BPL cardholders. He (Goyal) said it is not possible to give. It is politically motivated. The minister is not willing to give even though the rice is available," Muniyappa told reporters. 

However, the Karnataka government refuses to give up and remains determined to fulfil its promise to citizens below the poverty line (BPL), it would seem.

The state government has identified other central agencies like NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation), the Kendriya Bhandar and NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers' Federation of India) to procure rice for the Anna Bhagya scheme, Muniyappa said, and added that the government would fulfil its commitment to distribute free rice to the poor as early as possible.

Karnataka and other states which are operating their own schemes to ensure nutrition for underserved and disprivileged citizens have been hard hit by the central government decision on June 13 to discontinue sale of rice under the open market sale scheme (OMSS). The Centre cited inflationary pressure for its decision.

In a representation submitted to Goyal, Muniyappa said the Karnataka government has been making use of the OMSS scheme for sourcing rice for state cards that are sanctioned over and above the cards issued per the National Food Security Act (NFSA), and has given 1 kg of rice as additional entitlement to all ration card holders for the last seven months.

The minister noted that there are more than 1.19 crore BPL card holders and 4.42 crore total beneficiaries in Karnataka. The Centre supplies monthly 5 kg free rice per beneficiary under the NFSA at present. Over and above this, the Karnataka government will supply additional 5 kg of free rice, bringing the total to 10 kg. The state government therefore requires 2.29 lakh tonnes of rice per month overall, for distribution of an additional 5 kg of rice to all beneficiaries of the NFSA and state card holders, he said.

"The sudden discontinuation of OMSS took away the possibility of getting rice from FCI for this state scheme unexpectedly. It is [now] not only difficult to launch the new programme of giving additional 5 kg rice per member per month, but [the discontinuation has impacted] the regular monthly entitlement of food grain for 39 lakh beneficiaries [who are] state ration holders," Muniyappa noted.

As the kharif procurement season is over in most parts of the country, the state's efforts to source rice from other states or from the open market are becoming "challenging", he admitted.

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