New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Monday a fourth extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) till Diwali in November this year, to help an estimated 800 million people retain access to free food grain and cope with the impact of the second wave of the pandemic and any future surge in Covid-19 infections.
“Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana will be extended till Diwali. This means 80 crore people will get free ration in fixed quantity every month till November. The government stands with the poor people in all their needs. We are doing this so that my brothers and sisters and their families don’t have to sleep hungry,” said Modi in his address to the nation.
Terming it a “big decision”, the Prime Minister added, “last year when we had to impose a lockdown, PMGKAY served 80 crore people for eight months. This year, it was extended to May and June due to the second wave.”
The scheme, rolled out last year, provides five kilogram of free food grain to 800 million people already covered under the National Food Security law — the world’s largest subsidised food support programme. The PMGKAY handouts come over and above the federal food law’s subsidised allocations.
The decision was welcomed by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance.
“The decision to provide free ration to all ration card holders by extending the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Diwali is useful and commendable. Thanks to the Hon’ble Prime Minister for this. This will be helpful in winning the war against Corona,” said Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said that the decision “fulfils the mantra ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’”.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, however, attacked the PM, saying, “The Prime Minister has talked about vaccination, talked about the poor, but one of the biggest problems is emerging in the country regarding black fungus, what will he say about it, The black fungus under the nose of the Modi government The injection of fungus is being directly black marketing and the government is once again asleep.”
The central government announced the first phase of the welfare programme, along with a slew of measures including a job package for returnee migrant workers, in April last year. The latest extension is aimed to cover the impact of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that has gripped the nation since March.
Last year, too, the PM extended the special scheme for food handouts till Diwali, to cover the entire festive season amid uncertainties looming large.
According to the reports presented by the agriculture ministry last year, the scheme has been a “highly successful programme”. “During April-November 2020, 32.2 million tonnes of food grains were allocated, and 29.8 million tonnes were distributed, which is 93% of the allocation,” said the ministry in its report.
Experts, however, said that a significant section of the beneficiaries have not got the benefits.