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Centre’s Free Ration Scheme ‘PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana’ Extended With A Tweak

For the 28 months that PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana was implemented, a total outlay of approximately Rs. 3.91 lakh crore was sanctioned for 1,118 lakh tons of allocated foodgrain

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Centre’s Free Ration Scheme ‘PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana’ Has Got A New Spin
PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) was launched on March 26, 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, to provide food security

New Delhi: “My government has decided to implement the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana in line with the changing circumstances. This is the hallmark of a sensitive and pro-poor government. The government has spent about Rs. 3.5 lakh crore for free foodgrains to the poor under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. Today this scheme is being appreciated all over the world”, said President Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday (January 31). The President was addressing a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha ahead of the presentation of the Union Budget on February 1.

On March 26, 2020, after the nationwide lockdown was announced, the Government of India announced the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), providing 5 kg of rice or wheat per person and 1 kg of preferred pulses per household, for free every month to 80 crore people. This was in addition to the regular quota of foodgrains given under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Also Read: Economic Survey 2023 Highlights: Quality Health For All & Leaving No One Behind, An Important Priority For The Government

Under the NFSA, there are two categories of people receiving subsidised grains:

  • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) which constitutes the poorest of the poor and are entitled to 35 kg of foodgrains per family per month
  • Priority HouseHolds (PHH) identified by states, who are entitled to 5 kg per person, per month

Under NFSA, foodgrains are to be made available at a subsidised rate of Rs. 3 per kg for rice, Rs. 2 per kg for wheat, and Rs. 1 per kg for coarse grains to all AAY households and PHH.

Since March 2020, seven phases of the scheme have been announced, with the scheme in operation for 28 months, as under:

  • Phase I and II (8 months): April’20 to November’20
  • Phase-III to V (11 months): May’21 to March’22
  • Phase-VI (6 months): April’22 to September’22
  • Phase-VII (3 months): October’22 to December’22

For the 28 months that PMGKAY was implemented, a total outlay of approximately Rs. 3.91 lakh crore was sanctioned for 1,118 lakh tons of allocated foodgrain.

Trends In Money Allocation

For Financial Year (FY) 2022-23 Budget Estimates (BEs), the Government of India allocated Rs. 2,17,684 crore to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (MoCAF&PD), a 28 per cent decrease from the previous year’s Revised Estimates (REs).

A budget brief by Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research notes,

In December 2022, an additional Rs. 80,348 crore was allocated as part of the supplementary budget, bringing the revised allocations to Rs. 2,98,033 crore. Even with the additional allocations, they remain 2 per cent lower than the previous year’s REs.

Also Read: Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana To Provide Free Rations During Coronavirus Lockdown Extended, What Does It Mean For People On The Ground?

Food Subsidy is the largest scheme of the Ministry, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the Ministry’s budget in FY 2022-23 Budget Estimates. Under the programme, foodgrains are procured by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and states from farmers at government notified prices known as Minimum Support Price (MSP). These are then sold at subsidised prices known as Central Issue Prices (CIPs). The difference between the total cost of procurement of foodgrains (MSP and other incidentals) and CIP is provided by the centre as Food Subsidy to FCI. The subsidy also covers the storage cost incurred by FCI in maintaining buffer stocks to ensure food security in the country.

A budget brief by Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research notes,

At the start of FY 2022-23, GOI allocations for Food Subsidy stood at Rs. 2,06,831 crore. With the additional supplementary budget of Rs. 70,066 crore, the revised allocations increased to Rs. 2,76,897 crore, but were still lower than FY 2021-22 REs. This decrease in allocations comes after significant increases in FY 2020-21 and FY 2021-22, due to additional foodgrains given to families as part of the COVID-19 pandemic relief package, particularly under PMGKAY.

The Impact Of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)

Dipa Sinha, Assistant Professor, Ambedkar University opines that of all the relief measures undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Distribution System (PDS) was the most effective. She said,

PDS reached people. There were some issues of delays and corruption here and there which needs to be strengthened and improved even more. But overall, the learning was that this is an effective way of reaching support for food security for the poor.

Talking to the Banega Swasth India team about the impact of the PMGKAY, Shyamal Santra, Public Health & Nutrition Expert at Transforming Rural India said,

The working paper by International Monetary Fund (IMF) presents estimates of poverty [extreme poverty Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)$1.9 and PPP$3.2] and consumption inequality in India for each of the years 2004-5 through the pandemic year 2020-21. These estimates include, for the first time, the effect of in-kind food subsidies on poverty and inequality. Extreme poverty was as low as 0.8 percent in the pre-pandemic year 2019, and food transfers were instrumental in ensuring that it remained at that low level in the pandemic year 2020. Post-food subsidy inequality at .294 is now very close to its lowest level 0.284 observed in 1993/94.

Watch: Agenda 2023: Tackling Hunger, Malnutrition And Ensuring Food Security

The main objective of the PMGKAY was to not let “anybody, especially any poor family, to suffer on account of non-availability of foodgrains”. It was a safety net for the poor people to sail through the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Santra said,

This scheme will not directly achieve the nutrition goals, but will help in not falling to the worst nutritional condition. Food Security means that all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate foods. PMGKAY has ensured the availability of sufficient food for the poor and needy during the COVID-19 pandemic but the nutrition part is missing.

Adding to this, Ms Sinha, also an activist, said,

Only rice or wheat is provided. The one argument that is usually given is that, if people save from spending on cereals, they can spend more on other food items. But then it has also been a time when incomes have been depressed. So, the overall food consumption of people didn’t really increase. This is also a crisis period. Therefore, PMGKAY focused on addressing hunger by providing a basic safety net. It was more of a protection mechanism than an improving nutrition mechanism.

The Way Forward For PMGKAY

In December 2022, before the end of phase-VII of PMGKAY, the Central government announced that it will provide free foodgrains to about 81.35 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) for one year from January 1.

While addressing media persons after the Cabinet meeting, Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Commerce & Industry and Textiles said,

The Centre will spend more than Rs. 2 lakh crore in this period as food subsidy under NFSA and other welfare schemes, to remove the financial burden of the poor and the poorest of the poor.

Also Read: 81.35 Crore People To Get Free Foodgrain For A Year Under National Food Security Act

Under the scheme, the Government of India will provide free foodgrains to all NFSA beneficiaries i.e. Antyodaya Ann Yojana (AAY) households & Priority Household (PHH) persons for the next one year through the widespread network of 5.33 lakhs Fair Price Shops across the country. The new integrated scheme will subsume two current food subsidy schemes of the Department of Food and Public Distribution- a) Food Subsidy to FCI for NFSA, and b) Food Subsidy for decentralised procurement states, dealing with procurement, allocation and delivery of free foodgrains to the states under NFSA.

What this essentially means is that NFSA beneficiaries will now receive foodgrains free of cost instead of purchasing them at a subsidised rate of Rs. 3 per kg, Rs. 2 per kg and Rs. 1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains respectively. Under PMGKAY, started during the COVID-19 pandemic, additional foodgrains were provided. Starting January 2023, no additional foodgrains will be given to NFSA beneficiaries.

Sharing her thoughts on the revisions made, Ms Sinha said,

It’s premature to end free distribution of additional ration, given that the poor people have not recovered because there was a slowdown even before COVID and the pandemic made things worse. Food production in terms of rice and wheat is happening but the public procurement has reduced partly because the market prices have increased. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) hasn’t increased accordingly. Farmers will obviously sell wherever they are getting a better price. The government is not making any special efforts to improve procurement and stocks have gone down. A better management of the food system is required. Running PMGKAY, in the long run, is expensive but it is something that is needed as support.

Mr Santra believes that PMGKAY and AtmaNirbhar Bharat are two integrated ways to connect Bharat with India and it should continue.

The after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still unfolding. A food safety net ensures that the basic needs of the economically weaker sections are met and the pressure on them is eased. Providing a free ration is a welcome scheme, albeit an expensive one. According to the experts, continuing a scheme like PMGKAY requires big budgetary commitments making its sustenance a challenge.

Also Read: Aged Population To Spike In 3 Decades, Need Reforms In Healthcare Services: World Social Report 2023

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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