Rs 2/kg rice to add Rs 3,000cr burden on Andhra coffers

Written by KVVV Charya | Hyderabad | Updated: Dec 10 2007, 06:21am hrs
Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy appears to be a man in a hurry when it comes to announcing schemes. The latest is the Rs 2 per kilo rice scheme for below poverty line (BPL) families.

The scheme is not new. The founder of Telugu Desam Party, late NT Rama Rao, in 1983, used this as a means to capture political power from Congress.

According to official estimates, the scheme would burden the exchequer with over Rs 3,000 crore, a huge increase in the total subsidy bill to the government estimated at Rs 13,391 crore, which is about 40% of the total estimated state revenue collections. Officials say it would require about 2.5 million tonnes of rice.

Though the officials are tight-lipped on the feasibility of the rice scheme, which was discarded by the earlier TDP government led by N Chandrababu Naidu, they feel that as the economy is growing rapidly with increased employment generation, the people may not take the proposed rice scheme seriously this time around.

Moreover, the government is already offering a rice scheme at Rs 5.25 a kilo, providing a subsidy of about Rs 900 crore.

However, YSR feels that, the scheme has been revived keeping in view the poorest of poor who are still finding it difficult to meet both the ends. He says revival of the Rs 2 kilo rice scheme will benefit over two crore poor families (estimated 1.3 crore below poverty level families and 70 lakh disabled persons). The scheme will be launched on April 7, 2008, on the Telugu New Year day.

Interestingly, political observers said when Rajasekhara Reddy was Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee chief in 1985-86, and NTR was facing mid-term polls, he had termede NTRs rice scheme as a cheap gimmick and has said that the state would end up bankrupt. However, that very scheme has now transformed as an 'anti-poverty and employment generation initiative.