Press Trust of india

‘Free grain distribution to 81.35 cr poor under PMGKAY extended for 5 years’

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New Delhi:  With general elections scheduled for April-May next year, the government on Wednesday extended the PMGKAY scheme to provide 5 kilogrammes of free foodgrains per month to 81.35 crore poor for another five years that would cost the exchequer about Rs 11.80 lakh crore.

A decision in this regard was taken in the meeting of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Tuesday.

Giving details on Wednesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said, “The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) has been extended for another five years from January 1, 2024.”

The minister said the expenditure on the scheme will be around Rs 11.8 lakh crore over the next five years.

The scheme was last extended till December 31, 2023.

“Keeping in view welfare of the beneficiaries and in order to strengthen the food security in terms of accessibility, affordability and availability of foodgrains for the targeted population, and to maintain uniformity across the states, the decision has been taken to continue providing foodgrains, free of cost, under PMGKAY for five years,” an official release said.

PMGKAY was introduced in 2020 as a pandemic relief measure, under which 5 kg of free foodgrains per beneficiary per month was provided in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised foodgrain under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

In December 2022, as PMGKAY came to an end after multiple extensions, it was subsumed under the NFSA providing ration free for one year.

Under the NFSA, up to 75 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of the urban population are being covered under two categories — Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority households.

While AAY households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, are entitled to 35 kg of foodgrains per family per month, priority households get 5 kg per person per month.

Terming it as a historic decision, the government said the extension of free grain distribution under the PMGKAY for next five years reflects the long-term commitment and vision of the government for addressing national food and nutrition security.

This should help mitigate any financial hardship of the affected strata of society in a sustainable manner and ensure long term pricing strategy with zero cost to the beneficiaries, which is vital for effective penetration of the Public Distribution System, it said in a statement.

For example, the economic cost of 35 kg rice for an Antyodaya family comes to Rs 1,371, while the cost of 35 kg wheat comes to Rs 946, which is being borne by the central government under PMGKAY, and the foodgrains are provided completely free to the families, it said.

Thus, the monthly savings of ration card holders are significant, on account of the free foodgrains, it added.

Free grains will be distributed through a network of over 5 lakh fair price shops under a common logo. Beneficiaries can lift their entitled grains from any fair price shop in the country under the One Nation One Ration Card initiative.

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