PM Modi extends free foodgrain scheme for poor till Nov-end
The extension will continue to benefit 800 million people, or more than half of the country’s population, giving them 5kg wheat or rice per month.Updated: Jul 01, 2020 01:56 IST
New Delhi: With India in the middle of a long battle again Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday extended for five months the free distribution of foodgrain to economically weaker sections under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana — a scheme that proved to be beneficial for many during the pandemic with more than 73 lakh million tonne (MT) foodgrain reaching beneficiaries in April and May, according to government data.
The extension will continue to benefit 800 million people, or more than half of the country’s population, giving them 5kg wheat or rice per month. “Along with providing 5kg free rice or wheat to each member of a family, 1kg free whole chana will also be provided to each family per month,” said a government statement that followed the PM’s address to the nation.
The Prime Minister said that the government will spend more than Rs 90,000 crore for the extension of the Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, pointing out that if the money spent in the previous three months (April-June) is added to this, the government’s total expenditure for the scheme will be about Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
Two senior official familiar with the matter said that the broad contours of extending the scheme were discussed in a meeting chaired by the PM on Mondayin which some key officials and minsters were present.
The scheme is a part of Covid-specific welfare measures announced on March 26, days after sweeping federal lockdown was imposed to check the transmission of the virus. The government also announced components such as insurance for health workers, money for women through Jan Dhan accounts, ex-gratia payments to the marginalised, and the front-loading of the PM Kisan scheme for farmers.
One of the officials cited above said that on condition of anonymity that, in the meeting between the Prime Minister and chief ministers earlier in June, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had appealed to the government to extend the Garib Kalyan package for at least three more months. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, too, made a similar demand on June 22.
A senior official, who was part of the consultations for the scheme, said, “UP received 37 lakh (370,000) jobless migrant labourers and Bihar received 30 lakh (300,000) labourers. By covering all major festivals, this programme also sends a right signal.”
According to government data available till June 20, 113 lakh MT of foodgrain has been lifted by 36 States and UTs for April, and 37.01 lakh MT has been distributed, covering 740 million beneficiaries; while in May, 36.42 lakh MT of foodgrains have been distributed, covering 728 million beneficiaries.
Out of 5.8 lakh MT of pulses allocated under the scheme for three months, 5.68 lakh MT has been dispatched to various states/UTs. Of this, a total 3.35 lakh MT has been distributed to 163 million household beneficiaries out of 194 million such beneficiaries.
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh quickly pointed out how UPA-era schemes have made the welfare programme possible. “Two laws, the MGNREGA of 2005 & National Food Security Act of 2013, a legacy of the Congress-led UPA is now the nation’s lifeline,” he tweeted.
Former rural development secretary, Jugal Kishore Mohapatra, said, “I think the assessment is that the pandemic’s effect will continue for a much longer time. in that case, the relief for poor people has to continue as they are vulnerable and depends on government aid. It’s a very good decision.”