New Delhi: The Centre on Saturday said it is gearing up for monthly distribution of additional 5 kg of foodgrains for free to 80 crore PDS beneficiaries from May 1, to help the poor tide over the economic hardship in the second wave of the pandemic.
Additional grains will be given for two months under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) via ration shops or Public Distribution System.
PMGKAY is being reintroduced amid request from some state governments and after seeing the high level of success last year when sudden lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Briefing media, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said, “FCI has geared up its machinery of over 2,000 depots to be ready with stocks for delivery to states. FCI is in touch with states. We will together ensure the supply from FCI to the state government and thereon to fair price shops or ration shops.” He said 80 lakh tonne of foodgrains will be distributed in the next two months, that will cost the exchequer over Rs 26,000 crore.
Pandey said pulses are not included under PMGKAY this time. “Last year it was exceptional that pulses were given for free along with grains. National Food Security Act (NFSA) scheme is all about cereals.” Further, the Secretary said that there is enough stock with the government to meet the demand of grains if PMGKAY scheme is extended beyond June.
“I can assure you, we have sufficient stock to deal with the situation. Since procurement is going on, more stock is coming. We are comfortable with the stocks,” he said.
Asked why the government was limiting distribution of free grains for two months and if this was an indication of lockdown in the coming months, the Secretary said, “The Prime Minister has clearly said there won’t be complete lockdown.” The earlier lockdown imposed in 2020 was to prepare the country with resources to face the challenges of COVID-19, he said.
“Why (give free grains) for two months only? This is the decision of the government. The government reviews the situation constantly. The government thought it prudent that this time two months’ announcement should be made…I am sure the government will be watching the situation continuously,” he noted.
Joint Secretary in the Food Ministry S Jagannathan said a comprehensive COVID-responsible ecosystem is in place in states for distribution of free grains at ration shops.
He said a study conducted by Dalbery commissioned by the Finance Ministry had shown a very high level of “satisfaction” among the beneficiaries with regard to distribution of foodgrains under PMGKAY during the COVID-19 crisis.
Another study by Microsave Consulting in 88 districts across 18 states showed that average 94 per cent households have received free ration on a monthly basis during the crisis, he added.
The government had spent Rs 1.05 lakh crore on distribution of 30 million tonne of grains for free under PMGKAY during April-November 2020.