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Coronavirus lockdown | Migrant foodgrain scheme reached less than 15% of 8 crore target

People line up to collect ration at Motilal Nehru Camp, Munirka in New Delhi. File

People line up to collect ration at Motilal Nehru Camp, Munirka in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The scheme to provide free rations to eight crore migrants under the Aatmanirbhar package reached less than 15% of its target beneficiaries, according to data provided by the Food Ministry on Wednesday.

Also read: PM extends free foodgrains scheme till November

Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Telangana had zero percent distribution and seven States had less than 1% distribution. The scheme was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in mid-May to support migrant workers going hungry without ration cards, but the Centre had left it to the States to identify such people.

Overall, food grains were distributed to 1.21 crore people in May, 15% of the estimated eight crore beneficiaries. In June, less than 93 lakh people, approximately 11.6%, received rations.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension till November of the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), originally meant to provide additional free food grains and pulses to all ration card-holders from April to May. However, the Aatmanirbhar food package, which was meant to provide free food grains to migrants and those without ration cards in May and June, was not extended.

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The State governments have not distributed the full component of food allocated under the Aatmanirbhar package, as they did not have that many migrants in need, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told journalists on Wednesday at a video press conference. The Centre had been generous in its initial estimate of eight crore, he added. In May, the Finance Minister had said the eight crore estimate had been reached by adding estimates provided by the State governments of people in migrant camps and clusters.

Telangana lifted its entire allocation of grain under the Aatmanirbhar scheme from the Central pool, but did not distribute it to any beneficiary at all. Andhra Pradesh distributed grain to 600 people in May and 800 in June. Gujarat distributed grain to just over 4,500 in May (0.1% of its target) and none in June. Jharkhand and Odisha both distributed less than 0.5% of their targets.

On the other end of the scale, Rajasthan distributed grain to more than 42 lakh people each month, 95% of its estimated target. Himachal Pradesh and Haryana distributed more than 50% of their targets, while Punjab, Delhi, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh all crossed the 30% mark.

“States have communicated in writing, as well as during weekly reviews, the estimated number of migrants in their States, identified through de-duplication of Aadhaar,” said Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey, noting that the scheme had not been extended due to lack of demand from the States. “It turns out that 8 crore was a liberal estimate. So far, 2.13 crore beneficiaries have been covered, but the migrant situation is a dynamic one.” That figure includes beneficiaries covered in May and June; there is no data on the level of overlap, that is, how many individuals received grain in both months.

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With regard to the PMGKAY as well, Mr. Paswan said some States such as West Bengal and Bihar are lagging behind in distribution of the free grain to ration card-holders. “We have no problem in providing food grains to States. When it is being given free, I don’t understand what is the problem with States in distribution... They should be more sensitive towards the poor in this crisis and take proactive steps,” Mr. Paswan said, adding that he has written to the laggard State governments.

West Bengal has not yet begun distributing the June quota of free rations under the PMGKAY. Only 47% of the distribution has been completed in Bihar, and 48% in Madhya Pradesh. Nationwide, 75% of the June quota has been distributed, while 93% of the April and May distribution has been completed.

The Ministry has issued directions for the States to immediately begin lifting the extra allocation of food grains from Central warehouses, so that they do not face any distribution hurdles during the monsoon season.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 2:28:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-lockdown-migrant-foodgrain-scheme-reached-less-than-15-of-8-crore-target/article31965554.ece

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