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Kerala: LDF Govt Terms ‘Bharat Rice’ Sale as ‘Political Gimmick’, ‘Violation of Federal Principles’

Neelambaran A |
The state government has accused the Centre of resorting to ‘political games’ by selling Bharat Rice in the open market instead of providing the state with adequate for ration shops.
Kerala: LDF Govt Terms ‘Bharat Rice’ Sale as ‘Political Gimmick’, ‘Violation of Federal Principles’

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Rawpixel

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala has mocked the introduction of ‘Bharat’ brand rice for open market sale by the Union government, terming it as a ‘political gimmick. It also termed the move as one that violated federal principles. 

G R Anil, state minister for food and civil supplies, claimed that the department provides the same variety of rice at Rs 24 per kg through the Kerala Civil Supplies Corporation (Supply Co) while the Bharat rice is being sold at Rs 29 per kg. 

The minister also accused the Union government of not increasing the allocation of rice for the past eight years, besides preventing state governments and public sector undertakings owned by state governments from participating in the Open Market Sales Scheme (OMSS) auction for purchasing additional rice from the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Speaking in the Assembly on February 12, the minister also accused the Union government of setting double standards with respect to the demands of the state on its request for more rice to be supplied through the public distribution system (PDS) and open market selling through the shops run by the Supply Co.

“The government has not increased the rice allocation by a single kg for the past eight years, despite Kerala being the state that effectively intervenes in the market to control the prices”, Anil said in the House. 

The sale of Bharat Rice in Kerala and other states has begun by the National Cooperative Consumers Federation (NCCF), first in Thrissur followed by plans to set up shops in other parts of the state.  Thrissur is a constituency which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is pinning hopes on to make some impact in the upcoming general elections. 

In an event held on February 9, the minister said that the Bharat Rice available at Rs 29 per kg was of the same variety being sold through Supply Co stores at Rs 25 per kg. The blue card holders in the PDS shops are provided with the same quality rice at Rs 4 per kg and white card holders pay Rs 10.90 for a kg.

“The union government has also violated the National Food Security Act by distributing foodgrains in the open market instead of providing these through the ration shops”, he added. 

Kerala has a very strong PDS, with 14,173 shops with around 94 lakh card holders. The LDF has accused the Union government of attempting to weaken PDS in Kerala. “Instead of taking the rice to the rural areas through the ration shops, the government of India is selling it in the open market like business people do”, Anil said.

Meanwhile, the LDF government has refused to install selfie booths in front of ration shops in the state with the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan accusing the union government of carrying out election campaigns through such measures.

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