Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that the free grain distribution scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) will be extended by five months till the end of November, with an additional estimated outlay of ₹90,000 crore.
He made the announcement during an address to the nation via television, stating that the Indian government’s decision to start the PMGKAY within days of the nationwide lockdown had ensured that the poorest of the poor were not left hungry, with 80 crore people having benefited from the free distribution of grains.
“Timely decisions of lockdown and to distribute free grain, by both the government and civil society outfits ensured that our poor did not suffer hunger. Population twice that of the European Union, 12 times the population of the UK, and two and half times the population of the United States was provided free grains by the government. Under this scheme, for the next five months, five kilograms of free rice or wheat, and one kilogram of chana will be provided free to 80 crore Indians,” Mr Modi said.
He pointed out that while the country was entering Unlock 2, the economic activity in the country during the monsoons was more concentrated in the agricultural sector rather than others, and that it also segued into the festival season in India — starting with Guru Poornima in July to Chhath in November — when people would also be spending more.
“Therefore the government has decided to extend the programme to the end of November,” he said.
The Prime Minister thanked the farmers as well as the “honest” taxpayers for making it possible for this ambitious scheme of nutrition security to be put in place.
Mr Modi added that with the amount already spent since April, the total outlay for the scheme would go up to ₹1.5 lakh crore.
According to government sources, the next few months may see slow recovery in the economy as the COVID-19 cases, as also mentioned by Prime Minister Modi, showed an uptick but with lower mortality rates compared to other countries.
“The low mortality rates are a result of taking the right decisions of lockdown at the right time and precautions of wearing masks, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distancing. In Unlock 2 we are seeing a lowering of the guard which is to be avoided. People must stick to the precautions as they did under Lockdown,” the Prime Minister said.