Centre extends free food grain scheme till March 2022

Centre extends free food grain scheme till March 2022

The 5 kg foodgrain per person per month is being provided free of cost to more than 80 crore beneficiaries under the PMGKAY

Representative image. Credit: iStock Photo

Ahead of the assembly elections to five states, the Centre on Wednesday decided to extend the initiative to supply free food grains to the poor for another four months till March next year.

The decision appears to nullify any possible negative impact during the election season as opposition parties and activists had pounced upon the remarks of senior officials who had said that the free foodgrains scheme – PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) – will be discontinued from November 30.

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided to extend PMGKAY by four months till March next year.

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Briefing about the decision, I&B Minister Anurag Thakur said the extension of the initiative will help the poor who are recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest extension marks the fifth phase of the scheme that was launched in March 2020 as the country went under lockdown after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

Under PMGKAY, over 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) are entitled to receive 5 kg of rice or wheat per person every month free of cost in addition to the highly subsidised grains already distributed under that law.

The latest four-month extension will cost an additional Rs 53,344 crore to the exchequer, Thakur said, adding that the total cost of the PMGKAY, covering five phases, would reach about Rs 2.6 lakh crore.

The Right to Food Campaign had written a letter to Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal requesting him to extend PMGKAY.

Opposition leaders such as Congress Rajya Sabha member Ripun Bora and Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member Sougata Roy have also written to the Prime Minister seeking extension of the scheme.

The Phase-I and Phase-II of this scheme were operational from April to June 2020 and July to November 2020, respectively.

The Phase-III of the scheme was operational from May to June 2021, while Phase-IV of the scheme is currently operational for July-November, 2021.

So far, under the PMGKAY (phase I to IV), the Centre has sanctioned a total of almost 600 lakh tonnes of food grains to the States/UTs, equivalent to about Rs 2.07 lakh crore in food subsidy. As many as 541 lakh tonnes of grains have been distributed so far.

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