Mrunal Manmay Dash

The recent announcement by the Centre to provide free rice to 3.25 crore people in Odisha till December 2023 triggered a political slugfest in the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha are locked in a pitched battle over the distribution of free rice in the State.

While the BJD is crying foul over the Centre's decision to stop providing 5kg rice under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), the BJP on the other hand continues to claim that the BJD-led state government has been taking credit for distribution of subsidised rice over the years while the Centre bore the cost.

A resident in Udala, Mayurbhanj said, “People are gradually understanding that the BJD is only doing politics by taking credit for all the free rice that the Centre is providing.”

“A lot of poor people still do not know that the lion’s share of the cost of the rice that they are getting for free is actually provided by the Centre. It is because the Centre never marketed their schemes in Odisha. The poor will vote whoever they get influenced by, particularly through freebies,” opined a Malkangiri resident.

“Centre is providing rice free of cost to us. But the Odisha government is taking all the credit for the same,” said a resident in Soro, Balasore.

“People in rural Odisha had a misconception that Naveen Patnaik is providing them free rice. But, now-a-days almost all know that that around 90 percent of the cost is actually borne by the Centre,” said a man in Bhadrak.

A youth in Bolangir said, "It does not matter who is providing the free rice. The concern should be on why the actual beneficiaries are not getting the benefits. This is where the State government has failed because the last mile delivery is their responsibility."