Union Cabinet decides to extend free foodgrains scheme for five years

81.35 crore people to benefit; Centre to spend ₹ 11.8 lakh crore in five years

November 29, 2023 01:51 pm | Updated 09:16 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Minister Anurag Thakur briefing the media on Cabinet decisions at National Media Centre in New Delhi on November 29, 2023.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur briefing the media on Cabinet decisions at National Media Centre in New Delhi on November 29, 2023. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at an election rally in Chhattisgarh that he would extend for another five years the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) — the scheme that provides free foodgrains to about 81.35 crore people — the Union Cabinet took a formal decision on Wednesday to continue the scheme from January 1, 2024. The scheme was to end on December 31. The Opposition had criticised Mr. Modi for making such an announcement without the Cabinet’s approval.

The Centre launched the PMGKAY in March, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and ended it in December 2022. From January 1, 2023, the PMGKAY had subsumed other schemes under the National Food Security Act such as the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH) for one year. AAY card holders will get 35 kilogrammes of foodgrains per family per month and PHH scheme beneficiaries will get five kilogrammes per person per month.

After the Cabinet meeting, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said government expenditure for the scheme would be around ₹ 11.8 lakh crore for the next five years. “This is a historic decision that places PMGKAY amongst the world’s biggest social welfare schemes aimed at ensuring food and nutrition security for 81.35 crore persons, at an estimated cost of ₹ 11.80 lakh crore over a five year period,” a government release said.

It added that the decision reflected Mr. Modi’s strong commitment towards the fulfilment of basic food and nutrition requirements of the population. “Ensuring food security at this scale during Amrit Kaal would play a pivotal role in dedicating efforts towards building an aspirational and developed India,” the statement said.

Mr. Modi had announced at the election rallies that he guaranteed none of the poor in the country would face any difficulty in getting foodgrains. The government said the scheme would provide nation-wide uniformity in the delivery of food grains free of cost in all States and Union Territories through a network of over five lakh Fair Price Shops under a common logo.

“It will also enable ease of living, in terms of allowing beneficiaries to lift free of cost foodgrains from any fair price shop in the country under the One Nation One Ration Card initiative,” the Centre said, adding that the provision of free foodgrains would mitigate any financial hardship of the affected strata of society. “As an example, the economic cost of 35 kg rice for an Antyodaya family comes to ₹ 1371, while the cost of 35 kg wheat comes to ₹ 946, which is being borne by the government of India under PMGKAY, and the foodgrains are provided completely free to the families. Thus, the monthly savings of ration card holders are significant, on account of the free foodgrains,” the release said.

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