Earlier this month, Modi also hinted in an election rally in Chhattisgarh, that the Centre would extend the free ration scheme for 5 years
New Delhi: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, the government on Wednesday announced the extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana or PMGKAY to provide 5 kg of free foodgrains per month to over 81 crore poor for another five years. The extended PMGKAY will cost the exchequer about Rs 11.80-lakh crores.
The decision to extend PMGKAY until December 2028 was taken in the Cabinet meeting late on Tuesday evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the meeting.
Giving the details of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said, “The extension will be applicable from January 1 of the coming year. The continuation of the free foodgrains scheme under PMGKAY for five years to strengthen accessibility, affordability and availability of foodgrains for the poor and vulnerable. The scheme was last extended till December 31."
An official release said that keeping in view the welfare of the beneficiaries and in order to strengthen food security in terms of accessibility, affordability and availability of foodgrains for the targeted population and to maintain uniformity across the states, the decision has been taken to continue providing foodgrains free of cost under PMGKAY for five years.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister, at an election rally in Chhattisgarh, had hinted that the Centre will extend the free ration scheme for five years.
As far as the scheme is concerned, it was introduced in April 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic as a relief measure for three months but was later extended. Under this free ration scheme, poor families receive 5 kg of foodgrains per beneficiary per month in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised foodgrain under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
In December 2022, as PMGKAY came to an end after multiple extensions, it was subsumed under the NFSA, providing free ration for one year.
Under the NFSA, up to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population are being covered under two categories -- Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority households.
Terming it as a historic decision, the government said the extension of free grain distribution under the PMGKAY for the next five years reflects the long-term commitment and vision of the government for addressing national food and nutrition security.
This should help mitigate any financial hardship for the affected strata of society in a sustainable manner and ensure a long-term pricing strategy with zero cost to the beneficiaries, which is vital for effective penetration of the public distribution system, it said in a statement.
“The integration of the two food subsidy schemes into PMGKAY aims to streamline the implementation of the NFSA and enhance the effectiveness of the country’s food security network. The move is likely to bring about a more cohesive and uniform approach to food subsidy distribution, ensuring better coverage and accessibility for eligible beneficiaries,” the official statement said, adding that the beneficiaries can lift their entitled grains from any fair price shop in the country under the One Nation One Ration Card initiative.