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Naveen banks on cheap rice again

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 27: The BJD government has brought down the price of Rs 2 a kg rice by a rupee with a view to improving its image ahead of the elections.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik made the announcement while addressing the Republic Day parade yesterday.

The populist measure would bring in an additional burden of Rs 400 crore on the state exchequer. His Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme for 42 lakh families in the below poverty line (BPL) category already costs the government Rs 1,090 crore every year.

The revised price would become effective from February. With the state Assembly polls due in May 2014, the decision to reduce the price of rice, supplied through the public distribution system to poor families, is expected to give a boost to Naveen’s image.

The party managers seem worried at the series of scams — ranging from supply of dal to allotment of coal blocks — which has affected the public perception of the ruling party.

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — the two opposition parties in the state — were caught unawares. The two parties said that Naveen was indulging in “populist gimmicks” to win over the electorate.

The Congress party reiterated its old allegation that the UPA Government at the Centre provided 35kg rice for each BPL family, but the Odisha government gave them only 25kg. The party jumped a step further by demanding that the BJD government, if genuinely sincere about the poor, should provide dal, sugar, kerosene and onion at subsidised rates through the PDS.

The BJP, on the other hand, alleged that the move by Naveen was to gain cheap votes. “He has no sincere commitment to uplift the poor in the state. The game is aimed at winning the polls in the state next year,” said a former BJP state unit president B.B. Harichandan.

The Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme of the Naveen government was launched shortly before the Assembly polls in 2009. It paid rich dividends with the BJD virtually sweeping the polls by garnering 104 of 147 Assembly seats.

The Pradesh unit Congress president Niranjan Patnaik claimed that in the last elections, his party had promised to provide rice to BPL families at Re 1 a kilo.

He pointed out that the Centre was providing rice to the state at Rs 5.65 a kg after shouldering a burden of Rs 16.84 on each kg of rice.

However, a BJD leader said the state government provided a subsidy of 4.40 a kilo of rice to make it available at Rs 2.

Food and consumer welfare minister Pratap Keshari Deb said: “The government was allocated 97,131 metric tonnes of subsidised rice from the Centre every month for 27.76 lakh BPL families. But the state has to distribute cheap rice to 42.32 lakh families. That’s why we have decided to distribute 25kg of rice instead of 35kg to each family,” the minister said, adding that if BPL rice was to be distributed at 35kg per family, the state would require an additional 50,989 metric tonnes.

Odisha Treatment Fund: A BPL card holder can avail up to Rs 3 lakh for treatment of a serious ailment

Mamata scheme: All pregnant women belonging to rural areas and those in urban areas who work as daily wage labourers are entitled to Rs 5,000 in six installments

Bicycle scheme: All girls studying in Class X will be entitled to get a free bicycle. Class X boys belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are also entitled to free bicycles

Blankets for elderly people: All elderly people, widows and disabled persons belonging to the BPL category are entitled to Rs 200 to buy warm clothes every year

Madhu Babu Pension Scheme: Elderly people, who belong to the BPL category, are entitled to Rs 500 every month

Mo Kudia: Those not covered under the central government-sponsored Indira Awas Yojana are entitled to be provided with houses

SC/ST hostels: Aims at building hostels for SC and ST students in all the 30 districts of the state

Biju Setu Yojana: Aims at building 400 bridges to provide rural connectivity

Biju Gram Jyoti: Ten thousand villages are entitled to subsidised power connections

Biju Saharanchal Vidyutkaran Yojana: Aims at ensuring electrification of slums and villages with a minimum population of 100 persons

Biju KBK Yojana: Overall development of KBK areas after the Revised Long Term Plan comes to an end

Mission Shakti: Empowering women through self help groups Mo Phokhari: Liberal
assistance to people to have their own ponds. The target is to have five lakh such
water bodies

Gopabandhu Gramin Yojana: Additional assistance to the targeted 11 districts not covered by the Backward Regions Grant Fund