Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah launches Anna Bhagya; BPL cardholders to get cash in lieu of rice in July

The government will pay ₹34 per kg for 5 kg of rice. In all, 4.42 crore people are expected to benefit from this scheme.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jul 10, 2023 | 9:36 PM Updated Jul 10, 2023 | 9:37 PM

Karnataka Anna Bhagya

The Anna Bhagya scheme was initially launched by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in July 2013.

After years of its successful implementation, the programme was relaunched in Bengaluru on Monday, 10 July —  the 10th anniversary of its introduction.

Siddaramaiah launched the direct cash transfer to the beneficiaries of the Anna Bhagya scheme during the launch ceremony at the Banquet Hall of the Vidhana Soudha.

Though the scheme was launched in July 2013, the popular programme was discontinued under BS Yediyurappa’s regime and merged with the Union Government’s Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana in 2019.

Related: Congress accuses Union government of ‘sabotaging’ Anna Bhagya

The promise

In the runup to the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls, the Congress had announced five poll guarantees, including Anna Bhagaya scheme.

Under this scheme, 10 kg of rice would be provided free of cost to all the Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Antyodaya cardholders.

Of the 10 kg of rice, 5 kg is the Union government’s share, which the beneficiaries have been getting.

The Congress decided to give an additional 5 kg. The estimated cost to implement the scheme is Rs 890 crore per month and Rs 10,092 crore per year.

Siddaramaiah had initially announced that the scheme would be launched on 1 July.

As the state government couldn’t procure adequate quantities of rice from various sources, including the Food Corporation of India (FCI), it has announced that it would temporarily pay cash instead of giving rice to all the beneficiaries for the month of July.

The government will pay ₹34 per kg for 5 kg of rice for this month. A total of 4.42 crore people are expected to benefit from this scheme.

However, around 22 lakh families having BPL cards might not get this financial assistance immediately as they do not have bank accounts.

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Initial rollout in 2013

With an aim to make Karnataka a hunger-free state, Siddaramaiah first rolled out the flagship scheme in his first tenure at the helm in July 2013.

The primary objective of the scheme was to combat hunger and malnutrition by providing subsidised foodgrain to vulnerable sections of society.

The programme focused on implementing a universal public distribution system (PDS) specifically for rice.

It aimed to cover all families falling under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) categories without any discrimination.

When it was first introduced in 2013, the Anna Bhagya scheme brought about significant changes in ensuring food security.

It made rice available at a highly subsidised rate of just ₹1 per kg for BPL families and ₹3 per kg for APL families.

Around 87 lakh BPL cardholders and 11 lakh Antyodaya cardholders were covered under this scheme in 2013. The estimated cost to implement Anna Bhagya was ₹4,200 crore a year.

In order to implement the scheme, the state government procured rice under Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic) from the FCI and the Chhattisgarh government at a cost of ₹23.30 per kg.

Though the government initially provided PDS rice at ₹1 per kg, it made it completely free from May 2015. The government also used to give palm oil and pulses at subsidised rates to the beneficiaries.

Even then the Congress promised in its manifesto of implementing Anna Bhagya if voted to power in the 2013 Karnataka Assembly polls.

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Merged with PMGKY in 2019

The then chief minister B S Yediyurappa scrapped Anna Bhagya and merged it with the Union government’s Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) in May 2021.

Under the PMGKY, 5 kg of foodgrains are being provided to BPL cardholders. Of the 5 kg, the Karnataka government decided to give 2 kg of rice and 3 kg of jowar or ragi.

Jowar was provided in a few districts of North Karnataka and ragi in South Karnataka.

However, as many as 13 districts of Coastal and North Karnataka continued to get 5 kg of rice as jowar and ragi are hardly consumed in the region.

Yediyurappa did not make any fund allocation for the Anna Bhagya scheme in his 2019 and 2021 budgets. Since then, under the PMGKY, BPL cardholders are being provided 5 kg of foodgrains every month.

Before this, the then-chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, who was heading the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in 2018-19, reduced the supply of rice to 5kg from 7 kg as a cost-cutting measure.

On both occasions, Siddaramaiah protested against the state government’s decisions.

When he was heading the coordination committee in 2019, he had written a letter to Kumaraswamy appealing for a reconsideration of his decision on reducing the rice supply to 5kg.

Related: Union government denies rice supply to Karnataka

Congress relaunches Anna Bhagya

Despite struggling to procure adequate rice, Siddaramaiah launched Anna Bhagya by digitally transferring cash to beneficiaries in the Kolar and Mysuru districts at the Vidhana Soudha on Monday.

On the launch day, the government sent money through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to the beneficiaries of only two districts.

“The DBT will be done to all the beneficiaries of the remaining district by the end of this month,” stated Siddaramaiah.

According to the officials of the Department of Food and Civil Supplies: “A total of 4.42 crore people will benefit from the Anna Bhagya scheme. This also includes Antyodaya card holders.”

Taking a swipe at the Union government for stopping rice to the states, Siddaramaiah said: “The BJP-led-Union-government is carrying out an anti-poor, dirty politics by stopping the supply of rice under OMSS(D) to the state as soon as the Anna Bhagya scheme was announced.”

He added: “The Central government is not giving the rice for free. We would pay ₹34 per kg. After the Union Government stopped the supply of rice to the people of Karnataka, it started auctioning that rice through e-auction.”

He also said: “But now no one is coming forward to buy rice through e-auction, as per media reports. Is that dirty politics or not? Should it not be called hate politics against the people of Karnataka?”

He continued: “We have already implemented two guarantees — Shakti and Gruha Jyothi. Gruha Lakshmi will be launched on 16 August, and Yuva Nidhi is likely to be implemented in December.”

The chief minister also said: “The Congress government will deliver on all the promises it made.”

He added: “As promised, the government has begun transferring ₹170 instead of 5 kg of rice. The beneficiaries either use it to purchase rice or other domestic items. We will pay cash until the rice is procured. We have also called for tenders to procure adequate amounts of rice to implement Anna Bhagya.”

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40 lakh BPL cardholders to benefit

In the budget, Siddaramaiah announced that his government had decided to include 40 lakh BPL cardholders, who were not recognised by the Union government, into the Anna Bhagya scheme.

He said: “The government will bear the annual cost of ₹1,680 crore for purchasing and distributing 10 kg of food grains under Anna Bhagya scheme to these beneficiaries.”

He also urged the Union government to consider these additional poor families under the priority sector and extend them these benefits.

22 lakh families yet to benefit

About 22 lakh BPL families may not get the Anna Bhagya assistance immediately as they do not have bank accounts.

Karnataka has 1.28 crore ration cards of Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Priority Households, and 99 percent of these cards are seeded with Aadhaar numbers.

Among them, 82 percent — 1.06 crore — cards are linked with active bank accounts.

“The cash will be transferred to those cardholders. The remaining cardholders will be intimated to open new accounts,” an official statement said on Sunday.

A total of 1.27 crore ration cards have one member designated as Head of the Households (HoH).

“Cash will be transferred to the bank accounts of these HoHs. Of them, 94 percent are women and 5 percent are men,” it said.

According to Karnataka Food and Civil Supplies Minister KH Muniyappa, the entire money would be transferred into the account of the beneficiaries in a fortnight.

There are 4.41 crore beneficiaries in the state under the scheme.