The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved an extension to a modified PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), a free food handout scheme launched as a Covid relief scheme in March 2020, for three months, a person aware of the development said.
Under the scheme, nearly 800 million recipients identified under provisions of the National Food Security Act 2013 get 5 kg of grain free of cost. The free ration is over and above the monthly subsidised foodgrain entitlement of these beneficiaries.
The decision to extend the PMGKAY came on the back of the food ministry’s input that it would be able to offer the requisite ration based on the availability of foodgrains, the person cited above said. Details of the scheme’s extension and quantum of free grains were awaited. The Cabinet was presented with a range of scenarios and the subsidy outgo in each case, the person said. In March 2022, the Union Cabinet similarly extended the scheme for six months until September 30.
Beneficiaries covered under both categories of the food security Act, namely Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority householders, receive an additional quota of free-of-cost foodgrains (rice/wheat) at a scale of 5 kg per person per month. The total expenditure under PMGKAY has touched nearly ₹3.40 lakh crore. It helped pare huge stockpiles of grains held by the Food Corporation of India, the government’s main grain-handling agency.
A prolonged spell of a heatwave in March crimped wheat output, plunging federally held stocks to a 14-year low, prompting the government to ban export. A patchy monsoon is likely to cut Kharif or summer-sown rice output by 6% compared to the previous year, the government’s first of the four quarterly advance estimates showed last week.
Following the shortfall of wheat, the government in May replaced wheat with an additional 5.5 million tonne of rice in the PMGKAY, keeping the programme going. Initially, in 2020-21, the PMGKAY scheme was announced only for a period of three months — April, May, and June 2020 (Phase-I).
Later, the government extended the scheme from July to November 2020 (Phase-II). With the COVID-19 crisis continuing in 2021-22, the Centre in April 2021 re-introduced the scheme for two months, May and June 2021 (Phase-III), and extended it for another five months from July to November 2021 (Phase-IV).
The scheme was again extended from December 2021 to March 2022 (Phase-V). On March 26, the Centre extended the scheme to provide 5 kg of foodgrains free of cost to the poor for six months till September 30 at a cost of ₹80,000 crore.
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