The Centre on Sunday asked the state governments to keep ration shops, also called fair price shops, open for a longer duration and on all days to ensure timely and safe distribution of both subsidised and free foodgrains to the poor.
An advisory in this regard has been issued by the Union Food Ministry following representations that during the current lockdown in some states/UTs, ration shops' timings have been curtailed due to which the intended beneficiaries might not be getting adequate time to lift their entitled foodgrains.
"In view of ongoing lockdown in some States/UTs, that may curtail the functioning hours of Fair Price Shop (FPS), an advisory has been issued on 15th May, 2021...to keep the FPSs open, preferably on all days of the month," the ministry said in a statement.
The Centre is distributing highly monthly subsidised foodgrains of 5 kg per person at ₹ 1-3 per kg via ration shops to over 80 crore poor under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
Over and above this, additional 5kg of free grains are being distributed to the same beneficiaries under the PMGKAY (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana) scheme for two months – May-June in order to minimise economic hardships being faced by the NFSA beneficiaries during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the advisory, the Centre has asked states to keep the ration shops open for distribution of foodgrains under the NFSA as well as PMGKAY scheme in a staggered manner throughout the day, maintaining proper social distancing and adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, it said.
To facilitate this, states have been requested to ensure that FPSs are exempted from the restricted hours of opening of regular markets as foodgrains are covered under essential items, it added.
Further, the Centre has asked states to take necessary steps for timely distribution of foodgrains at their FPSs without causing hardships to the beneficiaries, and to give wide publicity to the measures undertaken in this regard.