The BJP government in Karnataka on Friday decided to rename the Anna Bhagya scheme to Mukhyamantri Annapoorna Yojane. The Anna Bhagya scheme of supplying free food grains to the poor was started by Congress leader Siddaramaiah when he was the Chief Minister in 2013. The BJP government led by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, however, is yet to officially announce the change in name for the programme.
The renaming of the scheme was revealed on Friday after Karnataka Agriculture Price Commission Chairperson Hanumanagouda Belagurki submitted a report to CM BS Yediyurappa. The report, titled 'Mukhya Mantri Annapoorna Yojana', has a commentary of recommendations, which included analysis of the existing scheme, and methods to improve the quality of production and market prices.
Known as the former Congress government's crown jewel to many, the Anna Bhagya scheme proposition is said to have got Siddaramaiah elected as the Chief Minister in 2013. The scheme includes distribution of free rice, jowar, bajra, ragi and lentils through the public distribution system (PDS) for those below the poverty line.
According to sources in the Chief Minister's Office, funds for developmental works including mid-day meal scheme, Anna Bhagya, Kshita Bhagya and Indira Canteens were cut after the pandemic struck Karnataka. The funds for these schemes were reallocated for COVID-19 efforts, the source said.
Anna Bhagya has become synonymous with the achievement of the Siddaramaiah government and rebranding it is one of the primary steps to be taken to ensure that the scheme continues, the source said.
"Under the Congress government, the various 'bhagya' schemes were launched. Since the amount of food grains being distributed through Anna Bhagya scheme was reduced, there is a need to rebrand it as even now, it is known as Siddaramaiah's scheme," the source said.
The model of distributing free food grains to the poor was conceptualised and implemented for the first time by former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Ramarao. Several state governments have subsequently adopted this scheme.
Three weeks ago, Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly Siddaramaiah had launched a scathing attack on Yediyurappa, stating that the conditions of farmers and weavers, especially those who are from the low-income backgrounds, have deteriorated.
Siddaramaiah spoke to the media last week in a press conference, where he criticised the government for failing to allocate funds for developmental works. "Schemes that were implemented during the Congress government were now being sidelined. Rice allocation for Anna Bhagya, Kshira Bhagya and other programmes has been cut. Many farmers are died by suicide. It has become a percentage government. Funds for Assembly segments represented by opposition MLAs were not being given and for Assembly segments represented by BJP MLAs were released after receiving compensation from the third party. Such corrupt government had not been witnessed by him," Siddaramaiah had said.