Karnataka has made progress on the sustainable development goal of Zero Hunger, thanks to the Congress and the Anna Bhagya Yojana.
The Nobel Peace Prize awarded in October 2020 to the World Food Programme underscores how critical food security and prevalent hunger still are. Zero Hunger is unsurprisingly listed high in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, second only to the eradication of poverty.
Karnataka’s Geographic Profile:- The Indian National Congress has focused on food security nation-wide across the decades, and specifically in Karnataka, the effort to ensure that no one starves received particular attention because of the geographic characteristics of the state.Dry farming drives cultivation across seventy four percent of Karnataka’s agricultural area. The families engaged in agriculture across this area are therefore vulnerable to the vagaries of rainfall – several parts of the geography are drought-prone and experience sub-normal monsoons often. The Anna Bhagya Yojana with its assurance of foodgrain has erased starvation among the resident population in these areas.The Anna Bhagya YojanaThe scheme was launched within two months of Siddaramaiah assuming the position of Chief Minister of Karnataka, in July 2013. Its target beneficiaries were the nearly 10 million holders of the Below Poverty Line card in the state, and their dependents. Families with one member would receive 10 Kg of rice every month, two-member families 20 Kg and those with three or more, 30 Kg, at the rate of INR 1 per Kg.In 2013, the INC government revised the scheme to address larger families: those with seven or more members would be entitled to an additional 5 Kg per family member at the same rate every month. The Indian National Congress government in Karnataka progressively added wheat, ragi, jowar, palm oil, salt and pulses to the basket of subsidized food grains over the next three years.The scheme was not without its detractors – those who could not avail of the benefits astonishingly alleged that it would cause indolence among the beneficiaries. The government contended that it would have exactly the opposite effect – it was hunger that prevented the ordinarily diligent from working, and the scheme would eliminate that sword of starvation constantly dangling over their heads.
Achieving Scale Fair price stores – part of the Public Distribution System – managed the distribution of food grains under the scheme. Having overcome initial teething issues, related to quality of food grains and fraud, the INC government resorted to technology to achieve scale and timely delivery – beneficiaries could authenticate themselves using the Aadhaar card, receive SMS alerts when supplies arrived at stores and have their identity validated through finger scans and received SMS alerts when their supplies arrived at the stores. In addition, government officials instituted checks and balances that validated the quantity and quality of the food grains received by beneficiaries. Local vigilance committees headed by nodal officers monitored the operations of the fair price stores.By 2019, the scheme covered at least 1.12 crore families and 4 crore individuals, ensuring the elimination of the world’s most potent killer – hunger – among a majority of the state’s poorest residents.
The Context Today :-The scheme lasted for the entire five year term of the INC government, and continued under the INC and Janata Dal (S) coalition government that succeeded it.However, the Bharatiya Janata Party toppled the government by inducing several coalition members of the legislative assembly to cross over and formed its own government. Their Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa immediately ordered a review of the Anna Bhagya scheme, claiming that one lakh beneficiaries were illegal and that food grain procured for it was rotting in warehouses. The response by people across the state was immediate and compelled Yediyurappa to back away and re-iterate his support for the scheme’s continuance.In the wake of the pandemic, the poorest face the grim prospects of starvation all over again: according to the WFP, the global count of those affected by acute hunger in 2020 will rise by 82% compared to 2019. Karnataka is bound to circumvent such a brutal outcome among its residents by ensuring food security. Instead of indulging in petty politics, the BJP government in Karnataka should continue and actually expand the scope of the Anna Bhagya scheme to ensure it reaches even more people.