Free grains scheme under PMGKAY extended till November end; total outlay Rs 94,000 crore

India’s union cabinet approved extension of free food grains distribution under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to over 80 crore people for another five months till the end of November 2021. The scheme that was initially rolled out for two months (May-June) would now entail a total expenditure of about Rs 94,000 crore for the seven-month period.

The PMGKAY was re-introduced amid the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with the objective to minimise the hardships of most vulnerable sections of the society. The Centre has now extended the validity of the PMGKAY programme till Diwali.

Under the scheme, all the beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) are entitled to receive same amount of additional rice and wheat – 5 kg per person per month – free of cost. The PMGKAY expenditure for May-June was estimated at Rs 26,602 crore. Now the food ministry has pegged the cost at Rs 67,266 crore to be spent during July-November. The total food grains requirement for seven months may be about 284 lakh tonnes.

In FY21, when a similar scheme was run, the government spent Rs 1.2 lakh crore on PMGKAY. “No poor family will suffer on account of non-availability of food-grains due to disruption in the next five months. Additional allocation will ameliorate the hardships faced by poor due to economic disruption caused by coronavirus,” the government said in a statement after cabinet approval.

The additional spending will be offset by nearly half by the extra amount of Rs 50,000 crore received from the RBI as surplus transfer. The food subsidy allocation for FY22 is Rs 2.43 lakh crore. As much as 593 lakh tonnes of wheat and 294 lakh tonnes of rice (total 887 lakh tonnes of food grains) are available under Central Pool. The Centre is hopeful of complete pick up of grains by the states under PMGKAY by end of this month as states and union territories have already lifted 96 per cent of 80 lakh tonnes allocated during May-June this year.

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