COVID-19 relief India

30% of ration card holders yet to get PMGKAY benefit for May

Only 55 crore have received their 5 kg per person quota of free wheat or rice under PMGKAY.

Only 55 crore have received their 5 kg per person quota of free wheat or rice under PMGKAY.

Almost a third of all ration card holders are yet to get their free foodgrains allocation for May under the Centre’s COVID-19 relief scheme , according to the Food Ministry. At a press conference on Thursday, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey also said it was up to the States to take further action on providing rations to migrants and others without ration cards in compliance with a Supreme Court order, indicating that the Centre does not intend to revive last year’s scheme meant for these vulnerable populations.

Out of the 79.25 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), only 55 crore have so far received their 5 kg per person quota of free wheat or rice under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), which was announced to mitigate the economic distress caused by the pandemic. Thus, more than 30% have still not got their benefit. However, almost 90% of beneficiaries have received their regular subsidised grain for the month, raising questions over why the free grain has reached fewer beneficiaries. Food Ministry data showed that Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Odisha and Rajasthan did not even begin distribution of the May quota under PMGKAY until June 1.

Also read | Grains reached 2.03 crore of 80 crore beneficiaries in first 10 days of May

On Wednesday, the Centre issued an advisory to all States asking them to launch a special drive to issue ration cards to the most vulnerable sections of society, including migrant workers and street dwellers, noting that “some of the poor and needy people who do not have address proof may be finding it difficult to obtain a ration card”. 

However, this must be done within the existing coverage allowed for each State under the NFSA. Mr. Pandey told presspersons that there was a nationwide coverage gap of 1.97 crore beneficiaries. However, he admitted that 14 States had already reached their quota limits and would not be able to enrol any new beneficiaries. 

An analysis of NFSA data shows that the only major States which have significant coverage gaps are Himachal Pradesh (23%), Madhya Pradesh (14%) and Gujarat (9%). Most other large States have less than a 5% gap, which can be used to issue new ration cards. In a May 24 order, the Supreme Court had directed stranded migrant workers and poor people without ration cards should be provided with dry ration under the Atma Nirbhar scheme — which was implemented last year — or any other scheme found suitable by the States and Centre. 

Also read | NHRC notice to Centre, States over denial of benefits

“The action largely lies on part of State governments. Making ration card is within the domain of the States. So we have already complied with what is required from the Central government. We are running PMGKAY, NFSA, we are also issuing subsidised food grains to NGOs,” said Mr. Pandey. Asked about any possibility of revival of the Atmanirbhar scheme, he only said, “Atmanirbhar scheme was last year, and today the schemes are different. I would still reiterate that the action now lies on the part of the State governments to issue ration cards.”

This comes at a time of record foodgrain procurement, with the Centre hiking its target for ongoing wheat procurement to 433 lakh metric tonnes in comparison to last year’s figure of almost 390 lakh tonnes. The record procurement has in fact led to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) being forced to temporarily store more than 28 lakh metric tonnes of grain in unscientific conditions, according to FCI Chairman and Managing Director Atish Chandra.

With regard to cooking oils, whose prices have shot up 60% over the course of the last year, Mr. Pandey said the Centre was monitoring the market and taking steps to ease import supply chain disruptions. Asked if there was any move to reduce import duties on edible oils, he said that a declining trend in global rates and 15-20% reduction in domestic demand have led to a recent softening of prices.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 12:40:35 am |