The union government extended the scheme to provide 5 kg of foodgrains free of cost to the poor by six months till September 30, 2022 at a cost of Rs 80,000 crore, as it looks to continue providing support to vulnerable amid a rebound in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scheme, which started when India went into stringent lockdown two years back, was to end on March 31. In the last two years, around Rs 2.6 lakh crore has already been spent under this scheme and it will cost another Rs 80,000 crore with the extension of six months.
In March 2020, the Centre had launched the scheme — Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) — to provide free 5 kg foodgrains per person per month to over 80 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to reduce the hardships of people during the COVID pandemic.
“In keeping with the concern and sensitivity towards poor and vulnerable sections of society, the Union Cabinet has extended the PM-GKAY scheme for another six months i.e, till September 2022 (Phase VI),” an official statement said. The Phase-V of PM-GKAY scheme was to end in March 2022.
The additional free grains are over and above the normal quota provided under the NFSA at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 2-3 per kg. “Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly abated and economic activities are gathering momentum, this PM-GKAY extension would ensure that no poor household goes to bed without food during this time of recovery,” the statement said. The government had allocated about 759 lakh tonnes of free foodgrains under the PM-GKAY till Phase V. “With another 244 lakh tonnes of free foodgrains under this extension (Phase VI), the aggregate allocation of free foodgrains under the PM-GKAY now stand at 1,003 lakh tonnes of foodgrains,” it added.