The Election Commission on Wednesday granted the Kerala government permission to implement a free rice supply scheme it had announced in its 2016-'17 budget. The monitoring body had earlier restricted the Congress-led United Democratic Front government from introducing the scheme, given the model code of conduct that came into force after state Assembly elections were announced on March 4.

While granting permission to roll out the budget proposal, under which families below the poverty line will be given 25 kg of rice, the Election Commission stipulated that no new persons should be added to the current list of beneficiaries, PTI quoted sources in Kerala’s Chief Electoral Officer’s office as saying. They also added that ministers and MLAs were barred from participating in any rice distribution ceremonies. Saying the decision to supply free rice was made before the polls were announced, the state government had appealed to the commission last month and sought permission to implement the policy.

Besides distributing free rice to families that fall under the below poverty line category, the state government had also suggested distributing the staple food to families that fall under the Antoyodaya Anna Yojana scheme through ration shops. This scheme, launched by the Centre in 2000, recognises ten million of the poorest families in India and to provide them 35 kg of rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg. Kerala polls are scheduled for May 16.