BENGALURU:If findings of a survey carried out by Ernst & Young LLP for the previous Siddaramaiah government is anything to go by, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s version of the Anna Bhagya scheme may be the preferred choice of beneficiaries.
A March 2018 survey commissioned to carry out a performance review of government initiatives, including Anna Bhagya, has suggested that beneficiaries wanted inclusion of palm oil, sugar and salt under the scheme - an initiative withdrawn by the previous Siddaramaiah government but re-proposed by Kumaraswamy in his 2018-19 budget speech. The survey accessed by The New Indian Express suggests that barely 17 per cent of the beneficiary sample size of 1,897 were happy with just rice distribution under the scheme.
During his budget speech, Kumaraswamy had proposed to cut down the quantity of free rice to 5kg and subsidise tur dal but also add palm oil, sugar and salt under the scheme. The intent was to omit the additional burden of around `1,500 crore to procure rice from the open market at `29-30/kg. After a letter from Siddaramaiah to retain his pet project as is, Kumaraswamy has now assured to re-look the possibilities. The survey suggests that 85 per cent of the respondents want palm oil at subsidised rates and 91 per cent sought sugar at subsidised rates .
“The state government has to spend too much on procuring rice to meet the demand of foodgrains under Anna Bhagya. There are additional 22 lakh BPL card holders that will avail the scheme this year, and cuts need to be made. We are making up for it by introducing more commodities,” a source from the chief minister’s office said. Siddaramaiah-led Congress government too had applied the same logic last year when it decided to stop distribution of palm oil, sugar and salt from the scheme but introduced tur dal. The then minister for Food and Civil Supplies, U T Khader, had justified the move that the government had hiked the quantity of free rice to 7kg per person and introduced tur dal apart from coming up with Anila Bhagya - a free LPG connection scheme.
Apart from assessing the performance of the scheme, the survey has also thrown up the impact of the scheme and the use of technology to plug leakages. In a clear indication of the scheme increasing the purchasing power of the beneficiaries, 83 per cent respondents said that their income had implicitly increased because of Anna Bhagya as it improved the overall health of the family. They could also afford nutritious food items, it aided children’s education and helped them save money through chit funds and saving schemes and opt for insurance.