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AP Govt To Launch Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme For Consumers To Get 'Cash In Lieu of Rice'

The Andhra government would give the people a cash amount in lieu of their ration quota of rice provided through fair price shops under the public distribution system under this system.

Chintu Das

The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy administration in Andhra Pradesh has introduced a direct cash transfer scheme for customers who do not wish to purchase rice from fair price shops under the public distribution system.

The system will be implemented on a pilot basis in chosen regions of the state beginning in May, according to state civil supply and consumer affairs minister Karumuri Venkata Nageswara Rao. "A survey on the plan's implementation will be undertaken, and depending on the results, actions will be taken to expand the scheme throughout the State," he stated.

The scheme would be implemented in Visakhapatnam, Anakapalle, Narasapuram, Kakinada, and Nandyal districts in the first phase. According to this arrangement, the government would give the people a cash sum in lieu of their ration quota of rice provided through the public distribution system's fair price shops.

A consent letter to this effect would have to be signed by the beneficiaries. The village volunteers have already begun collecting consent from the beneficiaries in the regions designated for the test project, which will close this weekend.

On April 25, the local revenue officer would examine the applications before sending them to the tehsildar for approval. With effect from May 1, after the tehsildar approves, the money will be credited to the accounts of the recipients who do not desire rice.

"It's merely voluntary; there's no obligation." The recipients have the option of receiving cash or rice rations. Even if a recipient chooses cash over ration rice, he or she can alter his or her mind the next month if necessary," the minister explained.

The administration has not yet decided how much money would be provided to the recipients in lieu of rice. “ For a kilogramme of rice, it may be anywhere between Rs15 and Rs16,” an official of the civil supplies department said on the condition of anonymity.

In the three Union Territories of Chandigarh, Puducherry, and urban parts of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, the system of direct transfer of cash into the bank accounts of PDS recipients, rather than distributing food grains, is already being implemented on an experimental basis.

The scheme of cash transfer of food subsidy was being implemented as per provisions of the Cash Transfer of Food Subsidy Rules, 2015, notified under the National Food Security Act, 2013, according to a statement made by Union minister of state for consumer affairs Danve Rao Saheb Dadarao in the Rajya Sabha last year (NFSA).

In states like Andhra Pradesh, where the PDS was being implemented well, retired IAS official and former Union Secretary (finance) E A S Sarma stated the cash transfer mechanism instead of rationing food to consumers was not appropriate.

"We have a solid ration store dealer network, and PDS rice is now being delivered straight to consumers' doorsteps at a reduced price." They won't be able to get the same quantity at the same price on the open market," he explained.

Furthermore, there is a good chance that the money will be spent on something else — men for liquor, women for other trivial domestic items. "It will eventually damage people's food security," he warned.

The plan to substitute cash for PDS rice, according to senior Telugu Desam Party politician Gorantla Buchaiah Chowdary, would be a major setback for the notion of food security. "TDP founder and former chief minister N T Rama Rao introduced a Rs 2 per kilogramme rice plan to assure impoverished people's food security. People will now be obliged to buy rice on the open market at exorbitant prices," he said.

Somu Veerraju, the state head of the BJP, said that the decision to put money into consumer accounts instead of rice was the result of a large-scale conspiracy. He said that the government was aiming to progressively phase out ration cards and export rice abroad to gain large sums of money.

However, the state's civil supply and consumer affairs minister denied the charges, claiming that no one would lose their ration cards if they chose cash transfer. He stated, "We will continue to give ration cards to qualified recipients."

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