Move to stop rice, wheat sale under open market scheme not taken suddenly, says Centre to Cong

New Delhi, June 15 (IANS): With the opposition Congress hitting out at the Centre for discontinuing the sale of rice and wheat from central pool under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS), thus impacting Karnataka government's Anna Bhagya Yojana for the poor, the Union Department of Food and Public Distribution on Thursday said that the decision was not taken all of a sudden.

In a press conference, ministry officials informed that the inter-ministerial committee meeting held on June 8 had recommended that "as there is need to maintain sufficient stocks for market intervention and control prices of wheat and rice through OMSS(D), therefore, the sale of wheat and rice under OMSS(D) for state governments may be discontinued".

However, the sale of rice under OMSS(D) may be continued for north-east states, hilly states and states facing law and order situation, natural calamities, at an existing rate of Rs 3,400 per quintal, the panel had decided.

Accordingly, after approval of the committee of ministers, a letter was issued to all states and Food Corporation of India (FCI) on June 13, official sources said.

They added that the policy was announced by the Centre on June 13 and communicated to FCI with a copy to all states governments.

The officials said that the policy formulation being a confidential exercise at the ministry level, the same was not known to the regional offices of FCI till its announcement.

The FCI regional office, Karnataka had issued orders for sale of rice under OMSS (D) on June, on the requests of the state government made on June 6 and June 9.

The Centre's clarification came amid the Congress alleging that discontinuing the sale of rice and wheat from the central pool under the OMSS to state governments, showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's frustration over BJP's defeat in the recent Karnataka Assembly polls and thus the BJP-led central government was venting its ire on the state's people.

The Centre, on its part, said that it has already imposed restriction for sale of wheat under OMSS(D) to states for quantity up to 10,000 metric tonnes only.

Also the Centre's decision to discontinue the sale of wheat and rice under OMSS(D) is focussed on controlling food inflation in order to protect the rest of the consumers, sources said.

After imposition of stock disclosure and limits and latest steps of the government has reduced the retail price of wheat by 2.06 per cent, they added.