Free Rice Dole Out: Kerala Government Awaits ECI Nod

The decision to provide 25 kg of rice to BPL families was part of the Budget speech of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Published: 30th March 2016 04:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th March 2016 04:51 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The Chandy Government is keenly awaiting nod from Election Commission of India (ECI) to dole out free rice to BPL families. Though the government planned to begin distribution from April 1, the ECI has thrown cold water on it citing violation of model code of conduct.

The government contended that the Cabinet decision regarding free ration was taken a day ahead of election declaration on April 4 and hence it was not a violation of model code.

The decision to provide 25 kg of rice to BPL families was part of the Budget speech of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Under the scheme, poor families classified as Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) beneficiaries would get 35 kg of rice for free. The government claimed that the total number of beneficiaries would be 95 lakh people. The state goes for a single-phase poll on May 16.

After the ECI decision kicked up a controversy, the Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala E K Majhi has now referred the matter to a committee headed by the state Chief Secretary P K Mohanty to examine whether the move violates the model code of conduct. If it gets the nod, the state will be the second in the country, after Tamil Nadu, to provide rice for free to the poor.

Even by charging a nominal Rs 1 per kg of rice, the state incurred an expense of Rs 700 crore. In 2014-15, 95,188 metric tonnes of rice was distributed in this manner.

 In the last five years, the Chandy Government gave away a subsidy of Rs 3,500 crore. The previous LDF Government also introduced subsidised rice for 40 lakh families at the end of their term.


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