Poll panel stalls subsidised rice scheme in Karnataka

Bangalore, March 28 (IANS) The Election Commission Thursday directed Karnataka’s BJP government not to go ahead with its Rs.2 per kg rice distribution scheme to poor families in view of the model code of conduct (MCC) in force for the state assembly elections May 5.

“We have told the state government that sale of subsidised rice to ration card holders through the public distribution scheme would violate the MCC, which is in force since March 20 when the state assembly election was announced,” state’s chief electoral officer Anil Kumar Jha told reporters here.
As the scheme was announced Feb 8 by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar in the state budget for ensuing fiscal (2013-14), the state government was preparing to launch it from April 1 at Koppa near Sringeri in Chikmagalur district, about 320 km from here.
About 9.8 million below poverty line (BPL) cardholders across the state were to benefit from the pro-poor food scheme, with about 20-25 kg per BPL family per month.
Similarly, cardholders above poverty line (APL) were to also benefit from the subsidised scheme with rice priced at Rs.10 per kg through fair price shops across the state.
Though state Food and Civil Supplies Minister D.N. Jeevaraj expressed surprised at the poll panel’s directive, he told reporters that the state government would abide by the decision.
In a related development, the state-run Karnataka Electricity Regulation Commission has put on hold its decision to hike power tariff in view of the MCC and in response to an appeal by the state utilities (escoms).
Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath and the other two members of the poll panel will visit Bangalore April 8-9 to hold second round of interactions with political parties and review poll preparations with state officials and police authorities.