The Union Cabinet on Friday decided to provide free foodgrains to all 81 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) for one year. The beneficiary families which used to pay ₹1 for coarse cereals, ₹2 for wheat and ₹3 for rice per kg will now get 35kg of foodgrains free for the next one year and others will get 5kg for free in a month till December 2023. The Centre has estimated an additional amount of ₹2 lakh crore for the scheme.
Briefing the decision after the meeting of the Cabinet, Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal said the move was yet another reflection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-poor stand. He said that for 28 months, the Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna ensured 5kg of foodgrains for the poor for free.
“This is another remarkable decision of the government. The Prime Minister has taken a decision to provide free foodgrains for 81.35 crore people who are covered under the NFSA,” Mr. Goyal said, adding that the entire expenses for the scheme would be borne by the Centre. Mr. Goyal said though the economic situation after the pandemic was normal, a decision was taken to extend the benefits of the Antyodaya Ann Yojana, PMGKAY and the NFSA to more people by merging them. The PMGKAY, launched during the lockdown in April 2020, was scheduled to end on December 31, 2022.
The Centre has been maintaining that the country has adequate storage of foodgrains to meet the welfare schemes. The Opposition has also been urging the Centre to provide foodgrains for needy people considering the economic situation, inflation and unemployment. The ruling BJP had used the schemes as a point for political campaign in the recently held Assembly elections too.
MSP for copra
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Mr. Modi, also approved the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for copra for the 2023 season. The approval is based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and views of major coconut growing States, the Centre said.
Briefing reporters, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said the MSP for Fair Average Quality of milling copra had been fixed at ₹10,860 per quintal and for ball copra at ₹11,750 per quintal for the 2023 season. “This is an increase of ₹270 per quintal for milling copra and ₹750 per quintal for ball copra over the previous season. This would ensure a margin of 51.82% for milling copra and 64.26% for ball copra over the all India weighted average cost of production. The announced MSP of copra for the 2023 season is in line with the principle of fixing the MSP at a level of at least 1.5 times all India weighted average cost of production as announced by the government in the Budget 2018-19,” Mr. Thakur said. The decision would ensure better remunerative returns to coconut growers and improve their welfare substantively.
“The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. [NAFED] and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation [NCCF] will continue to act as Central Nodal Agencies [CNAs] for procurement of copra and de-husked coconut under the Price Support Scheme [PSS],” a government release said.