Will free grains scheme stay?

Good crop:Rice and wheat being stocked at the godown of the Food Corporation of India in Visakhapatnam.K.R. DeepakK.R. Deepak

Good crop:Rice and wheat being stocked at the godown of the Food Corporation of India in Visakhapatnam.K.R. DeepakK.R. Deepak  

Centre remains silent on extension of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana

The government remains tight-lipped on the possible extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, which was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as part of the first relief package during the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme ends on June 30.

The scheme, announced for a three-month period, covered 80 crore ration card holders. Each household was provided 5 kg of foodgrains (rice or wheat) and 1 kg of pulses (only channa ) free of cost.

Meeting targets

Already, 21 States — both BJP-ruled and Opposition-led governments — have appealed to the Centre to extend the scheme for another three months till September.

According to the latest information provided by the Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry, 116.02 lakh tonnes of foodgrains have been lifted under the scheme.

In April, 93% of the grains allotted to the States was distributed targeting 74.05 crore beneficiaries. In May, the distribution stood at 91% reaching 72.99 crore beneficiaries and in June, 71% of the allocation went to 56.81 crore beneficiaries.

Union Food Minister Ramvilas Paswan declined to comment on the possible extension of the scheme. Senior officials at the Ministry said the decision lay with the Prime Minister’s Office.

The States that have demanded an extension include the BJP-led Gujarat, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar (BJP is an alliance partner) and Assam.

An official statement from the Union Ministry said the Food Corporation of India had “sufficient stock of foodgrains”.

According to the Food Corporation of India, there was a stock of 266.29 lakh tonnes of rice and 550.31 lakh tonnes of wheat as on June 28. This is excluding the ongoing purchase of wheat and paddy stocks that have not yet reached the godowns. Each month, only about 55 lakh tonnes is required for distribution to ration card holders.

Reetika Khera, Associate Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and researcher on food security, said that with the beginning of the monsoon, there was a real danger of foodgrains rotting.

“Remember these buffer stocks are maintained precisely for such emergencies. The stocks are far in excess of norms, not all of it being stored safely. With the monsoon upon us, there is a danger that some of it may rot,” she said.

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