UP, Bihar top two beneficiaries of PMGK scheme announced in March
Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar have been the two biggest beneficiaries of the free ration – cereals and pulses -- distributed under Rs 1.7 lakh crore Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) announced in March to provide immediate relief to the poor in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While UP distributed about 34.98 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of food-grains among over 150 million from April 1 to September 7, Bihar gave 17.28 lakh MT to over 80 million, according to data compiled by the Union finance ministry.
Maharashtra is the third on the list in terms of offering free food-grains to the poor during the pandemic followed by West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh (MP).
The relief package announced on March 26 aimed to ease the economic distress of the poor by providing them free food and cash security. Among other things, the government promised free distribution of 5 kg wheat or rice to about 800 million individuals every month and 1 kg of pulses per month to every family till June this year. Later, the scheme was extended till November.
Under the scheme, Maharashtra has distributed 15.35 lakh MT of grains among 70 million as of September 7, West Bengal over 12.19 lakh MT of grains among over 60 million poor, and MP 10.62 lakh MT grains among over 50 million people.
When it comes to the number of people getting pulses for free, UP tops the list with over 30 million beneficiaries availing 1.39 lakh MT pulses, followed by Bihar over 10 million people getting 54.23 thousand MT pulses.
“So far 178.85 lakh MT of foodgrains and 6.82 lakh MT of pulses have been distributed free of cost to approx 75 crores [750 million] beneficiaries under NFSA [National Food Security Act] and this scheme will continue till November 2020,” minister of state for finance Anurag Singh Thakur told the Lok Sabha last week.
Besides distributing foodgrains for free, the Union government has so far provided cash assistance of Rs 68,820 crore to 420 million poor under PMGKP till September 7, he said. The package is a part of Rs 20.97 lakh crore comprehensive stimuli the government had announced between March and May this year.
“UP and Bihar have been given the maximum advantage in this distribution. Perhaps it is because of how larger groups of beneficiaries were identified in these states,” said Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan, co-founder and director of research at The Polis Project Inc, a New York City headquartered non-profit think-tank.
“However, it could also point to the distribution of patronage to states for political reasons which are something we should always keep in mind. India has long been identified as a patronage democracy where public goods are seen as tradable commodities for political gain.”
Many state and national governments have practised this in India over time, she said. “So, this isn’t new. However, as always distributional biases of this nature are to be viewed as a part of emergent populist politics.”