rice
[Representational Image] Kerala Election Commission permits free rice scheme with conditions Picture: A labourer speaks on a mobile phone while lying on sacks filled with rice at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) market yard, on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad July 29, 2014.Reuters

A scheme for distribution of free rice in Kerala, which was stalled so far, has been approved by the Election Commission (EC). However, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) will have to comply with conditions laid down by the EC.

According to the scheme, 25 kg free rice will be provided to people below the poverty line (BPL) and families under the Antoyodaya Anna Yojana. The free rice scheme had been put on hold by the Kerala Chief Electoral Officer as it was not implemented until the Model Code of Conduct, which began March 4, was declared in the state ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections. The scheme had been announced in February 2016 for the period of the 2016-17 budget.

"The free rice scheme has been approved, but with conditions. No new beneficiary can be added to the list nor can the quantity of the rice be increased. There also can't be any publicity and political functionaries can't take advantage of the scheme," Sabu Paul Sebastian, Additional Secretary and Additional CEO, Kerala State Election Commission, told International Business Times, India.

BPL families that currently get rice at Re 1/ kg were promised free rice up to 25 kg in February by Kerala Chief Minsiter Oommen Chandy. The approval for the scheme comes as a relief to Chandy, who leads the Congress-led United Democratic Front government, and has been embroiled in multiple scandals, including the solar scam and the bar bribery case. The Congress government in the southern state has been battling opposition parties over the issues. The Left wing parties, with which the Congress has decided to contest in West Bengal, is a major adversary in Kerala.

The BJP and the Left Democratic Front have been calling for Chandy's and his ministers' ouster in the election-bound state.

State Assembly elections in Kerala will be held May 16 and the results will be declared May 19.