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Since 1st March, 1999
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MLAs hijack YSR baby

Hyderabad, April 13: The Andhra government is offering Rs 15-a-kg rice to the poor at Rs 2. Politicians are buying the entire stock from ration shops at Rs 2 and distributing them free or at Re 1 a kg.

Scores of ministers, MLAs and ticket-seekers — from both the ruling alliance and the Opposition — have hijacked the Y.S.R. Reddy government’s cheap rice scheme. They have done their arithmetic well.

While the government forks out Rs 2,000 crore a year subsidising rice by Rs 13 a kg, the politicians together pay a small fraction of that, losing just Rs 1-2 a kg. On the credit side, the voters in their constituencies see them as their direct benefactors.

“The Congress government’s strategy has boomeranged — now everybody is taking advantage of it,” chuckled a Telugu Desam Party MLA.

“Everybody” includes at least three cabinet ministers apart from 27 Congress, seven Desam and two CPM lawmakers. The day the scheme was launched, April 9, the politicians distributed nearly 1.6 crore kilos of rice.

“The MLAs and other leaders are asking the ration dealers to hand out the rice free or at Re 1 a kg, and are making good the balance to the shop owners,” a civil supplies official said.

He added that so far there had been no reports of biased distribution. “It seems the genuine card-holders are getting the rice and not just party supporters. But who can rule out abuse, especially if the politicians continue to do this till the general election?”

Civil supplies commissioner Poonam Malakondaiah was quick to issue a warning that the practice was illegal and would be stopped. On Friday, she met Reddy, following which the chief minister held a cabinet meeting and told police to oversee the distribution of the Rs 2 rice under the government scheme.

Congress and Desam MLAs, competing with each other to “book” ration-shop rice supplies in their areas, see nothing wrong with what they are doing.

“There is no bar on providing rice free or at Re 1 to the poor,” claimed Konda Muralidhar Rao, a co-operative bank chairman in Warangal and relative of local Congress MLA Konda Surekha.

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