The Food Corporation of India, the state-run grain-handling agency, has distributed 4.8 million tonnes of cereals under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to ameliorate Covid-19 distress, official figures show.
As many as 31 states and Union Territories have “lifted” or utilised 100% of their quota under the free-food programme for the month of May, according to the figures, while five, Arunachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry, have withdrawn that for June as well.
Under PMGKAY’s third tranche, announced on April 24, the Centre is providing 5 kg of free foodgrain per person, per month, to nearly 793.9 million beneficiaries for May and June 2021. These recipients are also covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) and therefore also receive subsidised food on a monthly basis.
“The scheme has provided a big relief to the beneficiaries during ongoing Covid pandemic period,” a statement from the food ministry had said on May 25.
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Some independent studies have showed that although federal food aid schemes, like the PMGKAY, have reached their targeted beneficiaries, distribution needs to be more widespread and strengthened to fully protect vulnerable people.
As soon as stocks are lifted by states, their share is replenished regularly to maintain adequate foodgrains in all the states, an official said.
Migrant workers covered under NFSA can withdraw their share of grains at any designated fair price shop in the country under the ‘One nation, one ration card’ programme. The programme is however operational in 32 states currently, the official said.
According to the food ministry, a survey conducted by Dalberg firm showed a “very high level of satisfaction among the beneficiaries”. The ministry called it an “independent survey”, although it was commissioned by the finance ministry.
Some food security experts however say food insecurity has been exacerbated by the pandemic. According to Amit Basole, associate professor of economics, Azim Premji University, who has conducted a study, overall 68% of households did receive at least some extra grains under the Centre’s Covid-19 food relief, which suggests not everyone eligible got the full benefits.
In an article published in the journal EPW in February 2021, Basole writes that during the first lockdown in 2020, a “worrying 20% of households reported no improvement in food intake since the lockdown”.